Before walking out of the negotiations on the Nature Restoration Law last week, the EPP parliamentary group shared a rather dramatic list of problems with the European Commission’s proposal. 

In a series of tweets in the group’s social media feed, it was claimed that the proposed law would lead to “increased food prices” and “even a küresel famine”. 

As the European Parliament prepares to vote on the law on Thursday, we need a reality check — and an end to scaremongering around NRL and the EU’s Farm2Fork strategy.

Growing more food is not the solution to rising hunger

The reality today is that the world already produces more than enough food to feed a growing population, according to UN veri. 

Indeed for the past two decades, the rate of küresel food production has increased faster than the rate of population growth. 

But unlike what voices for ever-more intensification claim, this hasn’t stopped rising hunger.

Rising hunger has little to do with levels of production — and everything to do with where that food goes and doesn’t go. 

Around a third of the food we produce is thrown away or left to rot. 

Rising supermarket prices are connected far more to profiteering than they are to environmental regulation.

A person shops at a grocery store in Athens, February 2022

A vast majority of the world’s calories are used to feed animals — livestock takes up nearly 80% of küresel agricultural land (factoring in feed) while producing less than 20% of the calories. And around one-tenth of all grain is turned into biofuel. 

Growing more food to direct to any of these ends will do nothing to reduce hunger or famine.

This helps to explain why, after the invasion of Ukraine, even as küresel diplomatic efforts succeeded in getting Ukrainian grain flowing again and emergency measures enabled the planting of fallow land set aside for nature protection, food price inflation still remains stubbornly above 5%, and queues for food banks are no shorter. 

It turns out most of the extra production was used to grow animal fodder. Meanwhile, rising supermarket prices are connected far more to profiteering than they are to environmental regulation.

‘Feed the world’ advocates are missing the point

We have to be honest about the situation. Never has our food system been so industrialised, chemically intensive, and küresel. 

Yet it has resulted in three food price crises in 15 years. And progress on küresel hunger is in reverse — thanks to volatile speculation-prone commodity markets and a debt crisis that is bankrupting countries and preventing them from tackling hunger. 

It has long been known that the sorun of hunger is one of distribution and poverty — but Big Food lobbyists continue to claim the contrary.

A store clerk shows plant based products at a supermarket chain in Brussels, October 2020

The “feed the world” advocates of the EPP are missing the forest for the trees. 

The biggest risk to food production of all is climate change and the current industrial model that is decimating nature and making it harder to sustain necessary levels of production in the long term. 

Climate change wiped nearly 10% off EU yields for some crops last year – and is already ravaging farm incomes on a regular basis.

Farmers are the victims of the existing system, too

Just last month, Italy experienced devastating floods destroying swathes of its agricultural heartland. 

Spain and Portugal, toiling under one of the worst droughts in recent history, have requested the activation of the European Food Security Crisis Preparedness and Response Mechanism for the first time ever because their food security is at risk. 

We know that soil degradation, chemical contamination, water scarcity, and biodiversity loss are putting crop yields at risk — and that industrial farming is a primary cause. 

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans is right when he says that food cannot grow “when the soil is dead and that there are crop failures due to drought”.

Vice president of the European Commission Frans Timmermans in the hemicycle of the European Parliament, December 2022

Farmers, the backbone of our food systems, are being hit hard by both economic and climate instability. 

They face price volatility, both for the inputs they buy and for the products they sell.

Though giant agri-food corporations are reaping record profits these past two years, farmers are as much victims of the boom-bust cycle of food markets as consumers — where price surges lead farmers into overproduction, prompting farmgate prices to suddenly fall. 

Farmers in some EU countries have even been protesting as they sit on large quantities of unsold commodities.

This can’t continue

We can’t go on like this. If MEPs are serious about feeding the world, they should jump at the opportunity that the Nature Protection Law and the Farm2Fork present.

Not only will it put us on a path to a more sustainable food system, help reduce waste and put more power in the hands of farmers and communities. 

It will also do this while restoring our natural world, increasing biodiversity, and making everyone’s quality of life better.

It’s time politicians abandon these cynical games and tackle the challenges facing us seriously.

Researcher Juergen Zimmer checks apples under solar panels installed over an organic orchard in Gelsdorf, August 2022

Failure to take action now will leave Europe confronting a future of climate disaster, decimated biodiversity and water scarcity, with no tools in the box. 

It’s time politicians abandon these cynical games and tackle the challenges facing us seriously. 

Farmers, consumers, policymakers and corporations — we need to take action for a food system that is much more diverse, resilient, healthy and sustainable in every region.

Will we stay trapped in a cycle of disaster?

There is ample evidence that farming systems that work with nature, like agroecology, provide economic performance, reliable yields, resilience to climate change, and preserve biodiversity. 

Further delaying and diluting the Farm2Fork strategy does nothing for world food security. 

It just keeps us trapped in a cycle of disaster while depriving Europeans of a more resilient future.

Olivier De Schutter is co-chair of the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) and UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and Emile Frison is the former director general of Biodiversity International and an IPES-Food panel expert.

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Source: Euronews

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