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Farmers warn EU policy risks boosting fast fashion over natural fibres

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Wool Credits: Pexels

A global coalition of farmers has raised alarm over the European Council's endorsement of the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) methodology to underpin the forthcoming Green Claims Directive, arguing it will unfairly favour synthetic fibres and jeopardise their livelihoods.

In a letter seen by FashionUnited, the group claims the PEF system is "not adequate to assess the environmental performance of agricultural products" and will "enable greenwashing by fast fashion brands" that rely on cheap, fossil fuel-derived materials.

"If the EU introduces policy that favours synthetic fibres used by the fast fashion industry, the struggle for farmers will become even more severe," the letter states, warning they "may have no option but to give up on farming practices."

The farmers, who describe themselves as multi-generational "custodians of the land," say their sustainable practices such as supporting biodiversity and soil health are overlooked by the PEF criteria. They allege a "prohibitively high cost" for voting membership in the PEF technical secretariat has shut out farmer representation in favour of "large brands with ample funding."

The complaint comes as the Council is due to agree its position on the Green Claims Directive on June 17, just days after the EU pledged to make "fast fashion out of fashion" and support farmers grappling with mounting challenges posed by climate change.

"If the European Council agree on the General Approach to include the PEF methodology...the Green Claims Directive will accelerate the growth of fast fashion and put farmers' livelihoods at risk," the letter warns, urging a reconsideration of the current framework to ensure it "truly reflects the impact of natural fibres."

The issue highlights tensions between the EU's environmental and economic objectives as it seeks to regulate sustainability claims, with the potential to pit powerful apparel interests against the agricultural sector.

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