Recently the European Parliament’s Environment and Health Committee blatantly disregarded scientific evidence on the harm caused by alcohol products, when the committee voted in favor of wine to be included in the ‘Farm to Fork’ healthy food strategy.
In addition to alcohol’s proven health and social harms, Big Wine has also been exposed for grave human rights violations at the farm level, which is against the principal of sustainability in the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy.

Recently, the European Parliament’s Environment and Health Committee voted in favor of wine being considered a “healthy food”. This decision disregards decades of scientific evidence proving all alcohol, including wine, is harmful to health, causing cancer, cardiovascular disease, mental ill-health, and more.

The European Union’s (EU) ‘Farm to Fork‘ strategy aims to accelerate the transition to foods that are sustainable and healthy. When the strategy was up for a vote in the Environment and Health Committee of the European Parliament on September 9, 2021, an amendment to the text was voted in which considers wine as part of the strategy.

The misleading amended text is:

Stresses the need to promote European information campaigns on moderate wine consumption while continuing to promote quality products;

Considers that consumption abuse can only be combated effectively through broad-based information and education campaigns, and recalls that moderate wine consumption is part of the Mediterranean diet.”

The wine industry’s interference to push through this amendment is obvious. But it is flawed and troubling. Mr Emil Juslin, Drug Policy Secretary for EU Affairs at IOGT-NTO, emphasized:

  • Alcohol is not a healthy beverage; and
  • Information campaigns alone are not an effective tool for preventing and reducing alcohol harm.

I have never seen such blatant language, as if information campaigns would be the only thing that works to prevent alcohol harm,” said Emil Juslin, as per Accent [translated from Swedish].

It is as if it was copy-pasted from the wine industry and goes against all evidence. It is shocking and incredibly problematic that this type of language can find its way into EU strategies in this manner.”

Emil Juslin, Drug Policy Secretary for EU Affairs, IOGT-NTO

The statement disregards mounting evidence proving alcohol is a cancer-causing, psychoactive, addictive substance which harms people, communities, and societies at large. Indepenedent science has also established that no level of alcohol use is safe, that alcohol causes seven types of cancer, increases risk of stroke and harms the brain.

Recent research showed that in the EU, in 2017, behavioral and metabolic risk factors showed a higher attributable disease burden compared with environmental risks. While tobacco and air quality improved significantly between 2007 and 2017 in both exposure and attributable burden, other risk factors, including alcohol use, had not.

This means the EU has not improved the disease burden caused by alcohol in the decade from 2007 to 2017.

In addition to the health and social harm from alcohol, including wine. Big Wine was recently exposed for grave human rights violations at the production level, which goes against the principals of the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy. Big Wine’s human rights violations include:

  • Forced labor,
  • Poverty wages,
  • Excessive working hours,
  • Health and safety risks in vineyards and wineries,
  • Lack of access to remedial action,
  • Restrictions to freedom of association,
  • Sexual harassment and gender discrimination, and
  • Poor, unsafe and unsanitary housing.

These human rights abuses illustrate that the wine industry should have nothing to do with the ‘Farm to Fork’ strategy.

There is still a chance to reverse the harm done by the European Parliament’s Environment and Health Committee. When the amended text will be brought up in the plenary session at the beginning of next year, the wine industry amendment should be rejected by the EU Parliament.

We can only hope that we can help get rid of the amendment until the plenary discussion. It would be very, very bad if it went through.”

Emil Juslin, Drug Policy Secretary for EU Affairs, IOGT-NTO

Members of the European Parliament will have the chance to put the welfare of the people in Europe before the profit interest of the alcohol industry. Rejecting the amendment means to avoid the harmful consequences of including Big Wine in a strategy aiming to transition to sustainable and healthy food.

Alcohol’s adverse effects on ‘Farm to Fork’

In Europe, the alcohol industry – the production, distribution, sales, and marketing of alcohol – poses a significant obstacle to achieve sustainable food systems that promote health and protect the environment. In fact, alcohol adversely affects 14 out of 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The EU’s food strategy ‘Farm to Fork’ aims to increase the pace of the transition to foods that are sustainable, both for health and the environment. Food products that the EU wants to support must:

  1. Have a neutral or positive impact on the environment,
  2. Mild climate impact,
  3. Reverse the loss of biodiversity,
  4. Ensure food security, nutrition and public health and ensure that everyone has access to adequate, safe, nutritious and sustainable food,
  5. Maintain affordable food prices while providing fairer economic returns, promoting EU competitiveness and promoting fair trade.

Evidence shows that alcohol – the products and practices of the alcohol industry – is a major obstacle to sustainable development, including social, environmental, and economic development.

  1. Alcohol has a negative impact on the environment, fuels water insecurity and drought (SDG 6), and contributes to pollution (SDG 13).
  2. The alcohol industry drives greenhouse gas emissions (SDG 13).
  3. Alcohol production degrades biodiversity (SDG 15).
  4. Alcohol is a leading cause of death and disease, and contributes to unhealthy diets, poor nutrition, as well as eroding food security and household spending on healthy foods (SDG 2, 3, 10).

Source Website: Accent [Translated from Swedish]