KNOWLEDGE MAP Back to overview

An overview of insights on the (un)sustainability of the international food system.

Food & Sustainability

What obstacles are there within legislation and policies?

Barriers in legislation and policy concentrate on competition laws and free trade agreements.

Competition laws

Competition law forbids price fixing as part of cooperation between companies, as it may disadvantage consumer and unfairly exclude other companies. But because such agreements can also deliver a societal benefit (such as sustainability), they have been partially allowed since 2013, provided that consumer benefits are big enough. In January 2015 the Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) denied the purchasing agreements enshrined in the ‘Kip van Morgen’ negotiations, because they would have unfairly limited competition. Their argument was that while consumers are willing to pay for increased animal welfare and environmental measures, the proposed improvements were not large enough to justify the higher consumer price and production costs for the producer. However, in December 2016, the ACM announced that it will not to intervene in widely supported sustainability agreements that all involved parties are positive about.

WRR (2014), p. 124-125.

The ACM ruling.

Starting points ACM.

Free trade agreements

While it is possible for the government to set demands on Dutch food production, this often does not apply to products that have been imported from abroad. For example, the production of cage eggs was banned in the European Union several years ago, whilst importing them for the processing sector was still allowed. Furthermore, food safety standards established by the WHO and FAO were initially meant as a minimum standard beyond which governments could set stricter rules, whereas within WTO agreements it has now grown into a set of maximum standards that define the boundary between legitimate production standards and trade barriers.

WRR (2014), p. 60-64, 122.

Initiatief Duurzame Handel.