We are working hard today to ensure that our food of today, tomorrow and always is safe, nutritious and plentiful.
- Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis -
Citizens' Dialogue on food safety and health
For the second time this year, the global stage of EXPO2015 in Milan hosted a timely and successful Dialogue linked to European topics. "Health, food safety and quality: challenges for a sustainable future" was the title of an almost two-hour long exchange between Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, MEP Paolo De Castro, and more than 250 citizens who gathered at EXPO from all over Northern Italy. The Dialogue was part of the official programme of EXPO.
Commissioner Andriukaitis warmed up the audience right at the start with a wholehearted statement on his feelings as a Lithuanian, who was born in a Stalin Gulag in the early fifties and is now in charge of one of the most sensitive subjects in the free world of the European Union. He called this a miracle, and vowed to approach the opportunity of this Dialogue with citizens not as an official, but as a citizen among citizens. Confronted with 85,7% of the audience feeling they did not have the means to shape and influence EU policies, Commissioner Andriukaitis stated clearly "We need Citizens Dialogues precisely to change these figures!".
The Dialogue was immediately animated by citizens' concerns about TTIP and its links to food safety, with people from the audience worried, for example, about the questions of hormones and antibiotics used for raising livestock and the consequent resistance to antibiotics developed in humans. Commissioner Andriukaitis, together with MEP Paolo De Castro who focused in particular on the international aspects of the Common Agricultural Policy, explained how a transparent free trade area with the US will not only be a boost for growth and jobs in the global economy, but is the only way we can regulate and control such issues. The Commissioner also made a clear pledge "not to diminish food standards".
The Dialogue also provided a precious occasion to have a frank and clear discussion on GMOs. Commissioner Andriukaitis acknowledged that it is important to regularly have more informed discussions with citizens, a position echoed by MEP De Castro.
The discussion turned interestingly also to trade barriers, with many citizens and operators expressing concerns that pathogens could be used to ban EU exports. There again, Commissioner Andriukaitis and MEP De Castro pointed to TTIP as the most effective instrument to address such problems.
The Commissioner ended the Dialogue with a statement that triggered a strongly felt applause from the audience, when he acknowledged having learned much from this exchange and feeling encouraged in his role. He concluded by saying that he will add a fourth "P" to the three he has set for his mandate (promotion, prevention, protection), and that is Participation".