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US says EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy could leave 185 million people hungry

04 November 2020 Steve Gillman
  • USDA study says EU's Farm to Fork (F2F) and Biodiversity strategies could cause global hunger
  • It marks the second US warning about EU sustainability plans in a week
  • European researchers argue thatthe real challenge is global food distribution and inequality

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a new study saying the EU's F2F and Biodiversity strategies could leave 185 million people hungry around the world.

The F2F and Biodiversity strategies are part of the European Commission's plan to address the bloc's environmental impact, proposing 2030 goals like the reduction and use of pesticides by 50% and reserving 10% of land for nature.

The USDA study examined the consequences of adopting the two new strategies - from the EU being the sole market to embrace these sustainability goals to the bloc's main trading partners following suit and finally to a total global adoption.

The report found that: "By 2030, the number of food-insecure people in the case of EU-only adoption would increase by an additional 22 million more than projected without the EC's proposed Strategies [sic]. The number would climb to 103 million under the middle scenario and 185 million under global adoption."

These figures are based on the USDA's analysis that claims the two strategies could cause a 12% decline in EU agricultural production, resulting in a knock-on effect of higher food prices. The researchers continue to say that the decline in production and trade coupled with increased food commodity prices would "significantly reduce" EU gross domestic product (GDP) by 76%.

The USDA also raises production concerns if the EU pushes its sustainability policies on its trading partners, finding that it could lead to global decline in agricultural output by 7% and a GDP drop of 12%.

The report's message echoes recent comments from Ted McKinney, the USDA's undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs, who targeted the F2F strategy as a risk to global food security and a policy that would strain their trade relationship with the EU.

"The planet has about seven and a half billion people now and we're moving toward nine or ten [billion] by 2050," he said, adding that the world must double food production to be able to feed that population. McKinney warned that the world is still "falling behind" the annual growth rate needed to fill that gap, which he said will widen if the EU continues to push its sustainability vision onto the world and reject innovations like GMO crops.

The Commission has defended its strategies saying that no food security problem exists within the US or EU and that their new sustainability ambitions would not spark one globally because it includes a focus on sustainable development with its trade partners. The EU executive add that their plans will leave their economy better off because it will accelerate the current shift towards sustainability and unlock value for the bloc's food producers.

Dr Guy Pe'er from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Germany adds that global food production exceeds dietary needs and the real challenge is food distribution and inequity in access to basic resources, citing FAO data.

He says that any slight increase in yields on smallholder farms, which make up for 50% of global food consumption, would have a much larger effect on production than reserving land for nature. He also argues that secure food production needs functioning agro-ecosystems, which requires adoption of more environmentally friendly practices that protect pollinators and soils - objectives behind the targets of the F2F and Biodiversity strategies.



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