EU wants to halve food waste by 2025

Catering firms that agree to redistribute their unused or unsold food items to charitable groups for free could be awarded lucrative public contracts, under a new plan being considered by MEPs in Brussels.

Catering firms that agree to redistribute their unused or unsold food items to charitable groups for free could be awarded lucrative public contracts, under a new plan being considered by MEPs in Brussels.

A report entitled “Avoiding Food Waste” recommends changing public procurement rules across Europe so that companies are rewarded for reducing the amount of food waste they generate. The proposal is one of a number of measures aimed at halving the amount of food waste produced in the EU, which currently stands at 90 million tonnes a year. In Ireland alone, an estimated one million tonnes of food waste is created annually, mostly by the manufacturing sector.

Ireland East MEP Liam Aylward, who is helping to draft the report for the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee, says redistributing unused food within State service providers would deliver immediate cost-saving results.

“The majority of people think of food waste as the food and leftovers that go in the rubbish bin at the end of the meal, however it’s clear that food waste occurs in unacceptable quantities at each stage of the food supply chain, and wastage by consumers is only the tip of the iceberg,” said the Fianna Fáil MEP.

Other measures put forward by MEPs to lessen the “food waste” mountain include education and awareness-raising campaigns, and a plan to designate 2013 as “European Year Against Food Waste”. The report will be debated and voted upon by the Agriculture Committee in the autumn, before it goes before the entire European Parliament for consideration.

‘MEPs in a bad Moody over US rating agencies’

Irish MEPs have joined the growing chorus of criticism throughout Europe against US credit rating agencies, after they downgraded Irish and Portuguese debt to “junk” status earlier this month alongside that of the most embattled eurozone economy, Greece.

Fine Gael MEP Jim Higgins urged the President of the European Commission to confirm whether he will set up an EU ratings agency to more accurately assess the economic performance of each country without adding unnecessarily to destabilising market jitters. Commission President José Manuel Barroso was to the forefront of the EU-wide attack on ratings agency Moody’s, claiming the decision to downgrade Portugal and Ireland was “incomprehensible” and suggested an “anti-European bias”.

However Mr Higgins has now called on Mr Barroso to follow through on his words and put a swift end to the activities of US rating agencies in Europe. “They are anonymous companies with vested interests and they make their money by betting against particular economies and then hoping there will be a market swell against them,” said the Fine Gael MEP.

Last year, the EU’s Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier announced plans to put North American credit rating agencies under the thumb of an EU agency, and a more detailed proposal on this is expected before the end of the year. In the meantime, Mr Barnier has vowed to consider the option of suspending ratings on EU member countries receiving bailouts, including Portugal, Ireland and Greece.

The three largest US rating agencies Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch have already been widely blamed for their role in the financial meltdown, by fuelling the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the States. They are also accused of conflict of interest as they are paid as consultants by the same banks whose debt they rate.

Beware the ‘green jersey’ approach, warns McGuinness

Two Irish MEPs urged the Oireachtas Joint Committee on European Affairs last week to get more involved in European decision-making by cooperating with our EU neighbours.

Addressing the newly-formed committee in Leinster House, Ireland East MEP Mairead McGuinness said Ireland’s problems are common EU problems that must be solved on the basis of EU solidarity.

“When there is no coherent EU approach and every EU member state adopts a national jersey, no one is looking after the EU collectively,” said the Fine Gael MEP.

Ms McGuinness called on the members of the Oireachtas Committee to engage particularly in the EU budget debate for the period 2014 to 2020.

“The Commission is proposing a new system of financing the EU budget and this must be looked at by all member states with an open mind. If we stick to the narrow perspective of ‘my money back’ then progress will be stunted, and what appears to be a relatively benign Commission proposal could become a real problem for Ireland,” she added.

Meanwhile Labour MEP Proinsias De Rossa outlined to the Committee the increased role that can be played by the Dáil in EU affairs as provided for under the Lisbon Treaty. The extra powers bestowed on all national parliaments include the right to participate in decisions on Treaty changes and the right to object to proposed EU legislation.