President Emmanuel Macron pledged Saturday to protect European farming standards and culinary traditions threatened by aggressive foreign trade practices that see food as a “product like any other.”
Macron’s speech at his country’s premier agriculture fair was aimed at assuaging French farmers’ anger at government policies seen as favoring urban elites and neglecting the heartland cherished for producing famed cheeses and wines.
Europe’s “civilization of eating well, of gastronomy, of the art of living” is now threatened by world powers that pursue aggressive trade policies and “consider food a product like any other,” without taking into account environmental, health or culinary concerns, Macron said.
Macron proposed using blockchain technology to trace the source of food and putting Europe in the “avant-garde of agricultural technology.”
He spoke amid European Union talks on its next agricultural aid plan, a major source of funding for French farmers. He appealed for unity at those talks and argued against calls to re-nationalize French farming policy.
He appealed to French farmers to view their livelihoods in a global context, but many are struggling under day-to-day debt and uncertainty about the future. Macron is seen by many in rural France as epitomizing out-of-touch city elites, and many French farmers want more government help to face growing foreign competition.
Macron is trying to tackle the concerns head-on by spending all day Saturday at the Salon d’Agriculture in Paris, where farmers showcase their livestock, food and wines. He’s meeting with dairy farmers, pork producers, vintners and others.
Security is tight for Macron’s visit Saturday, which comes as yellow vest protesters hold anti-government protests around Paris and other cities for a 15th straight weekend. Macron was booed at last year’s farm fair over plans to ban a popular pesticide and trade deals.