More plant based diets key to EU’s food security
Experts and policy makers agreed that the EU’s agri-food sector is relatively resilient and, faced with unprecedented crises, manages to keep food in EU citizens’ plates. In fact, the EU is not only self-sufficient in food production, but is also a net exporter of both agricultural and food products and the exports of certain products, like wheat, have increased since the invasion of Ukraine.
Members of the European Parliament also heard, moreover, that supply chain issues due to the COVID pandemic and the war in Ukraine are but two of three crises the EU’s agricultural system is facing. The EU has also gone through an unprecedented heat wave as a consequence of Climate Change. Extreme weather phenomena are increasing and will continue to put Europe’s agriculture under considerable strain in the years to come.
These crises have exposed the European food system’s main weakness: the volatility in global commodity markets. Whereas it has not impacted Europe’s capacity to produce food, it is impacting food’s affordability for Europeans.
Particular focus was put by a number of Members of the European Parliament on the price of fertilisers and its impact on meat production specifically and agricultural productivity generally.
Invited expert Geneviève Pons of “Europe Jacques Delors” institute highlighted, however, that a resilient agricultural system does not put the production of feed for animals in competition with the production of food for people.
More concretely, another expert, Melchior Szczepanik of the Polish Institute of International Affairs, sketched a way forward, highlighting how the current crises can be overcome through positive dietary changes: less meat consumption, less greenhouse grown crops, more seasonal fruit and vegetables, in short, a move towards a more plant based diet.
A word of warning was also spent on the need to avoid more vulnerable consumers being pushed to overly processed foods. Suggesting that how to shape food environments should also be part of the policy agenda.
When challenged by certain MEPs on whether the European Commission should scrap its Farm to Fork strategy, experts were inclined to say “no”. In fact, it is the joined-up sustainable thinking behind the strategy that can make the EU’s food system more resilient and secure. Provided, of course, that a move towards more plant-based diets is a central part of the debate.