Read on
A one-sided European emphasis on sustainability reduces agricultural productivity and thus food security both inside and outside of Europe. This could lead to political tensions, warns David Laborde of FAO, the United Nations food agency.
Editorial office / Brussels

Laborde is director of FAO’s Agri-Food Economics department and co-coordinator of the 2023 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report. This was published in July by five UN organisations: FAO, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Hunger and malnutrition

The UN-report shows that food insecurity (chronic hunger, undernourishment and malnutrition) is increasing, especially among children, due to the COVID pandemic, climate shocks and local conflicts such as in Yemen, Syria and Ukraine. This is not only happening in developing countries; food insecurity has also increased in the UK and continental Europe over the past three years, due to economic crises and the increased cost of living. The issue is not directly related to the quantity of food available, but mainly to eating more low-priced, low-quality food and related health problems.

Laborde foresees that the single-minded focus on sustainable agriculture goals will reduce production in Europe and thus have a further negative impact on food security. Whereas European agriculture has been a world leader in productivity until now, Commissioner Timmermans’ Green Deal and related plans focus primarily on making European agriculture a leader in sustainability. The use of pesticides and artificial fertilisers should be reduced, intensive crops should give way to organic farming and livestock should be reduced because of nitrogen emissions. High-quality alternatives with sufficient scale, however, do not yet exist.

Increasing tensions

Such measures will increase European dependence on other countries for food supplies, thereby driving up both prices and the ecological footprint in other parts of the world, resulting in increasing hunger and (geo)political tensions.

Laborde is convinced of the need to green European agriculture. “We cannot sacrifice sustainability. But it doesn’t mean that Europe can sacrifice productivity either. The EU must find a mix of domestic and global policies that maintain its leadership on the world stage when it comes to food and nutrition.”

Read the full article on Euractiv.

Image: Riccardo Mayer/Shutterstock