Food crisis: 450 scientists call for ‘less animal products, less waste and a greener European agricultural policy’

War between Ukraine and Russiacase

More than 450 scientists published this Monday a call to change our global food system rather than lock ourselves into productivism to meet the shortages that are emerging because of the war in Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine could jeopardize the food security of countries such as Lebanon. But, while the risk of shortage hovers, promoting forced-march production is not a tenable solution in the long term. We also need to act on the demand side. This is what more than 450 scientists are pointing to on Monday. In a common call, they recall the absolute need to change our behavior to build a more sustainable and crisis-resilient world. The lack of cereals and fertilizers caused by the war in Ukraine foreshadows what we will have to live with in an overheated climate in a few decades. According to the scientists, the same solution applies to these two scenarios: “fewer products of animal origin, less waste and a greening of EU agricultural policy”.

“Farm policy makers – like the EU commissioners who meet on Wednesday – should not abandon sustainable farming practices just to increase grain production”, they write. Brussels is indeed working on a temporary reduction in fallow, a practice of resting the soil which allows the land to regenerate. Some States are also demanding to question the European strategy “From farm to fork”, which aims, by 2030, to reduce the use of pesticides by half, that of fertilizers by 20%, and to devote a quarter of the land to organic farming. While the EU was finally on the way to greening its agriculture, we are moving towards a backpedal and more productivism.

“Inequality in distribution”

“Global food insecurity is not caused by a shortage of food supply. It is caused by an inequality in distribution. There is more than enough food to feed the world even now during this war. However, cereals are used for animal feed or as biofuels or wasted instead of feeding hungry people.explains Sabine Gabrysch of PIK, one of the co-authors.

Scientists therefore propose three avenues, far from being new, to combine the short and long term. First, Europe and the other rich countries must “accelerating the shift to healthier diets with fewer animal products”, which would save grain for animal feed. Then, we must increase the production of legumes, rich in protein, and reduce dependence on nitrogen fertilizers or Russian natural gas. Finally, scientists want to tackle big waste, insofar as “the amount of wheat wasted in the EU alone is roughly equivalent to half the amount of wheat exports from Ukraine”. They add that “social security systems and food banks should be strengthened across the EU to avoid the adverse effects of rising food prices for poor households”.

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