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Agriculture

The Truth About Organic Farming

Does shopping at upscale grocery stores make you a better consumer? Hardly. In fact, contrary to what you may already believe, organic food is not less efficient and thus more expensive. It is also worse for the environment.

A study by the University of Melbourne in Australia shows that organic farming yields 43 percent to 72 percent less than conventional methods — and that achieving the same output requires 130 percent more farmland. For those skeptical about the results of just one study, you can find more of them hereherehere or here. The last-mentioned study underlines the point that “if all U.S. wheat production were grown organically, an additional (30.6 million acres) would be needed to match 2014 production levels.”

Organic food needs more resources than conventional farming. The effects on biodiversity are severe: insects and pollinators can access fewer natural reserves with organic agriculture. On top of that, under a 100 percent adoption scenario of organic farming, carbon-dioxide emissions would increase by up to a whopping 70 percent, as researchers in the United Kingdom have shown.

So why do some people in the United States continue to buy organic food at sometimes double the price of conventional food? One on hand, it’s performative. Shopping at sizeable organic food shops is popular and presumably the sort of thing you’re supposed to do once you have a comfortable salary in a large city. On the other hand, some consumers are misled about the alleged benefits of organic farming. Organic food is thought to be healthier (it isn’t) and to not use pesticides (it does).

Organic farming has become a talking point, more than just a beneficial placebo effect for upper-class city-dwellers. It is also political. “Democrats will invest in research and development to support climate-resilient, sustainable, low-carbon and organic agricultural methods,” the 2020 Democratic Party platform says. Yet the Democrats are doing more than just subsidization — environmentalists are undermining the catalog of pesticides available to farmers by arguing that they are dangerous. In fact, painting pesticides that have been safely used in American agriculture since the 1960s as “bee-killing” or “toxic” has been a frequent trope of activists who bemoan everything from “factory farming” to the availability of meat.

Sen. Cory Booker is happy to play a part in a New York Times opinion video in which he says “we are past the national emergency,” tying climate change with the American food system. Booker, whose home state of New Jersey produces a whopping … 0.35 percent of all the food in the United States, probably misrepresents the reality of American farming. In fact, agricultural intensification has led to peak agricultural land being reached, meaning that we make more food with less land overall, which allows our ecosystem to regrow over time. That means more forests and flowers for the aerial shots of political campaign videos.

The representation of the American food system as toxic and evil can only go so far before it becomes either comical or sad. Neither of them is a good look.

Originally published here

PAS DE CRISE ALIMENTAIRE… VRAIMENT ?

L’Union européenne semble avoir choisi de déformer la réalité de notre crise alimentaire. Comme ce ne serait pas un problème, elle fait même tout son possible pour l’aggraver…

Des commissaires qui prétendent que nous avons une récolte record et que la situation est non seulement bien, mais excellente… cela nous fait indéniablement penser à La Ferme des animaux de George Orwell.

Curieusement, nos dirigeants politiques n’augmentent même pas la production, tout en prétendant qu’il n’y a pas de crise alimentaire. Le commissaire européen à l’environnement, Virginijus Sinkevičius, a récemment déclaré à la presse que l’augmentation de la production alimentaire en Europe n’était qu’une simple « solution à court terme pour réagir à la crise ».

Alors que la Russie attaque les silos à grains ukrainiens et bloque les navires pour l’exportation, les prix mondiaux des céréales sont en hausse. En outre, la guerre entre la Russie et l’Ukraine affecte tous les produits, des huiles au miel, en passant par les engrais et les aliments pour animaux. Il en résulte une inflation des prix alimentaires qui, même selon les chiffres officiels (et nous savons à quel point les Etats savent les minimiser), dépasse les 8%.

De 3 à 25% d’inflation…

La France connaît heureusement une inflation des prix alimentaires relativement faible, de seulement 3%, parce qu’elle applique des politiques qui l’ont maintenue historiquement autonome ; mais des pays comme l’Allemagne (11%), l’Autriche (8,5%) ou les Pays-Bas (9%) n’ont pas la même configuration.

En Europe centrale et orientale, la situation est pire : étant donné qu’un grand nombre de leurs systèmes alimentaires se sont spécialisés dans des cultures spécifiques (généralement celles qui rapportent le plus de subventions aux agriculteurs), ces pays ne sont pas préparés à affronter cette tempête et se retrouvent avec des taux d’inflation de 12% en Pologne, 15%  en Roumanie, 19,5% en Hongrie et même 25% en Lituanie.

Le blocus céréalier provoqué par la Russie frappe les pays en développement encore plus durement que l’Europe continentale. L’Afrique du Nord et le Moyen-Orient sont lourdement touchés par l’absence de céréales ukrainiennes importées. L’Europe pourrait, si elle le voulait, augmenter ses propres niveaux de production et s’assurer d’aider ces pays dans le besoin avec nos exportations (tout en soulageant nos propres besoins alimentaires), et ainsi éviter que d’autres pays, comme la Chine et la Russie, renforcent leurs liens diplomatiques avec ces nations.

Non seulement la Commission européenne ne semble pas croire qu’il s’agit d’un problème, mais elle fait tout son possible pour l’aggraver. Sa stratégie « Farm to Fork » vise à réduire de 10% les terres agricoles en Europe au cours des prochaines années. Un objectif étrange, puisque les recherches montrent que les modèles comparatifs indiquent que le pic d’utilisation des terres agricoles a déjà été atteint. Cela signifie que, malgré une population croissante, l’humanité ne devrait plus augmenter ses besoins en terres à des fins agricoles.

Encore plus de dépendance

Même si c’est le cas, la production alimentaire continue de croître car les techniques agricoles modernes nous permettent de créer plus de rendement avec la même quantité, ou même un peu moins de terres. Une chute plus soudaine et significative de 10% plongerait en revanche notre système alimentaire dans un désarroi inutile, et compliquerait encore davantage nos relations avec la Russie et notre dépendance à son égard. Notre modèle agricole est une ligne délicate de l’offre et de la demande, et l’altérer comporte des risques énormes.

En outre, la Commission européenne prévoit également de réduire l’utilisation des pesticides par le biais de la directive sur l’utilisation durable des pesticides (SUD). Réduire de moitié l’utilisation des pesticides d’ici 2030, voilà qui n’est pas du goût de certains : dix pays de l’UE se sont plaints de la manière dont la Commission calcule l’objectif de réduction des pesticides. Un calcul qui sera injuste, étant donné la grande variation de l’utilisation par hectare entre les agriculteurs des différents pays de l’UE.

La Commission européenne tarde également à autoriser les nouvelles technologies d’édition de gènes pour la production alimentaire. En Angleterre, où une législation est désormais sur la table pour rendre disponible cette technologie éprouvée (déjà utilisée en Israël, aux Etats-Unis et au Canada), le gouvernement a clairement fait savoir qu’elle pouvait lutter contre l’insécurité alimentaire.

Cependant, malgré la volonté d’Emmanuel Macron de s’engager dans cette voie, l’Allemagne continue de bloquer. La ministre allemande de l’Environnement, Steffi Lemke, a en effet rejeté le projet de la Commission européenne consistant à proposer de nouvelles règles pour les cultures produites à l’aide de nouvelles techniques génomiques, telles que CRISPR-Cas9, affirmant que ce n’était pas nécessaire, affirmant même qu’elle « ne voi[t] pas la nécessité d’une nouvelle réglementation ».

Le problème des normes

L’Union européenne veut le beurre et l’argent du beurre. Elle veut à la fois prétendre que les normes alimentaires en Europe sont les plus élevées qui soient, et que ces normes alimentaires (non viables) produisent des aliments disponibles et bon marché.

Malheureusement pour la Commission, pour que cela soit vrai dans un communiqué de presse, il faut qu’elle déforme l’un des deux facteurs, et il semble qu’elle ait choisi de déformer la réalité de notre crise alimentaire.

Elle suit les recommandations d’activistes environnementaux délirants, qui préféreraient que nous revenions à une version nostalgique de « l’agriculture paysanne », qui est à la fois horriblement inefficace et malsaine pour l’environnement et les consommateurs.

En fait, l’agriculture biologique qu’ils aiment tant a besoin de plus de terres agricoles pour produire la même quantité de nourriture. Donc, en substance, réduire les terres agricoles tout en passant à l’alimentation bio signifie une chose : nous recevons tous moins à manger, même si nous dépensons plus.

Donner aux gens moins à manger en temps de crise ? Il est assez simple de prévoir comment cela se terminera.

Originally published here

The Bees Are Doing Fine. Why Do Activists Say They Aren’t?

Pollinators are essential to our ecosystem; thus, a drastic decline in them would hurt not just nature around us but also humans. With that in mind, lawmakers around the globe have been worried about the effect of human behaviour on the sustainability of bee colonies. Environmentalists have been adamant that “bee-killing pesticides” are to blame, and not just in recent years: their claims that the chemicals we use to protect from crop losses and plant diseases are responsible for bee colony collapses. 

However, the numbers don’t bear that out. Since the introduction of neonicotinoid insecticides – the pesticides blamed for bee death – in the mid-90s, bee populations have not collapsed. The data show that as of 2020, there has been an increase of beehives by 17% since 2010, 35% since 2000, and 90% since 1961. In the United States, the number of bee colonies has been stable for 30 years, while in Europe, where farmers also use these insecticides, the number has increased by 20%.

Local or regional reductions in managed bees can occur because bee-keepers adapt their stock in terms of the market demand. As honey prices are currently on the rise, it is likely that in many areas, bee-keepers will increase their supply to benefit from higher prices. As for wild bees, not just are they hard to count (because, as the name suggests, they are wild), but existing research predicting catastrophic decline has been debunked in the past.

That does not mean that there are no threats to pollinators or that modern farming does not have an impact on them. In fact, climate change has affected the warming-tracking of bumble bees and led them to seek higher elevation. Added to that, solitary bees are affected by the impact of habitat loss caused by the rapid expansion of agriculture over the last centuries. That said, we need to put the habitat issue into context: research published on May 30 shows how comparative models point to peak agricultural land use already having been reached. This means that despite a growing population, humanity is unlikely to increase its need for land for farming purposes any longer. Even though that is the case, food production continues to grow because modern farming techniques allow us to create more yield with the same or even less land.

On the one hand, the reason for this shift lies in the fact that developing nations have increasing access to modern farming equipment and crop protection tools. Where previously farmers needed a lot of labour to hand-weed, machines are able to cover the entire field in a fraction of the time, and fungicides assure that the food is safe for human consumption. On the other hand, innovations in the developed world have also modernised the way we make, consume, and deliver food. Improved supply chains guarantee that we don’t need a farm in every small rural area anymore, and modern genetic engineering has made our crops more resilient and efficient. Yet even before that, the use of crop protection chemicals has ensured that farmers don’t lose a significant share of their crops each year.

However, with the development of modern agricultural practices came its opponents. Environmental activists have contested the legitimacy of the use of pesticides and instead advocated for organic farming. Not just does this undermine the trust in the regulatory bodies that oversee the safety of the products, but it also misses two key factors: organic farming, contrary to popular belief, does use a long list of pesticides, and a shift to all-organic would increase the need for farmland. A study by the University of Melbourne found that organic farming yields 43-72 percent less than traditional farming and that it requires 130 per cent more farmland to yield the same output.

Defenders of modern agriculture should vehemently push back against the notion that today’s food model undermines bee health or human health, for that matter. In fact, the solutions of environmental activists are so counter-productive to their own stated aims that we can safely say to them: we’re on your side, but you’re not.

Originally published here

What the US can learn from Europe’s war-induced food crisis

Lift the sanctions on Russia, and we’ll allow for Ukraine to export its food: that was the message that Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko passed on to its European counterparts recently. Moscow has been responsible for blocking Ukrainian transport ships carrying grain from passage through the Black Sea. Around 24 million metric tons of wheat and maize are currently unable to leave the country as prices are exploding. Wheat prices have jumped, now double compared to last year, while maize prices have gone up by 82 percent.

As Europe scrambles to find food imports from other trade partners — Russia being sanctioned and Ukraine unable to export — lawmakers are divided over the steps forward. In fact, the European Union had been discussing a comprehensive reform to its agricultural system through the so-called “Farm to Fork” plans. This roadmap seeks to reduce farmland by 10 percent, cut pesticide use in half, and increase organic farming to a fourth of the overall farmland use, up from the current 8 percent. Farmer representatives had been critical of the plans, and USDA published an impact assessment showing that the reforms would lead to a reduction in GDP between 7 and 12 percent. However, politicians in Brussels insisted that the plans were needed for the sake of the bloc’s carbon dioxide emission reduction targets.

Now that the war in Ukraine rages on longer than anyone expected, the tide is turning.

Both the European Parliament’s largest parliamentary group and France’s President Emmanuel Macron have made it clear that “Farm to Fork” comes at the wrong time and that in wartime Europe cannot afford the ambitious reforms. On top of that comes the pressure from Brexit Britain: England just introduced legislation that would legalize gene-editing in food production, in what is by far the most significant divergence from EU legislation since the exit. An adviser to the UK’s environment department said that this would have numerous benefits, from building crops that are more resistant to the climate crisis, pests and diseases to increasing crop yields, which could help to combat global hunger. All these factors are not just crucial in the long run but can also help the country weather food supply chain disruptions such as those created by the war in Ukraine.

This comes at a time when scientists just developed a gene-edited tomato that boosts vitamin D levels. Between 13 and 19 percent of Britons have a low vitamin D count, making innovations such as these essential.

Lawmakers in the United States have, in the past, attempted to copy European Union food regulations. The Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA), supported by lawmakers including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) would copy-paste EU food regulations into federal law. This piece of legislation, which could be approved by Democrats, would undermine the entire American food system as we know it. The United States has always preferred innovation over a hawkish approach to the precautionary principle, which is why, in contrast to Europe, it has assured that food is readily available and affordable. In 2020, Americans spent 5 percent of their disposable income on groceries, compared to 8.7 percent in Ireland (the lowest in the EU), 10.8 percent in Germany, 12 percent in Sweden, 17 percent in Hungary and 25 percent in Romania.

On the worldwide scale of food production, the United States has already fallen behind China and India. Both countries’ stake in food exports is negligible compared to the overall domestic production. However, unburdened by the increasing restrictions on modern agriculture, they could soon increase the economic competition in international food markets. China is already the leading trading partner for an increased number of countries in the world, particularly in developing nations.

The United States cannot afford to fall behind in the world food trade and should guarantee its competitive edge to support its allies in times of crisis.

Originally published here

Time to Dispel Pollinator Mistruths

May 20th marked the annual World Bee Day of the United Nations, an excellent occasion to debunk the myth that the bees are dying because of modern agriculture. This common misconception has been making the rounds through environmentalist activism and the media for almost two decades.

When California beekeepers in the 2000s experienced losses in their bee colonies, environmentalists first blamed who they’re used to blaming: genetic engineering. But unlike an episode of South Park, there is no Dr. Mephesto creating continuous disasters with outlandish experiments — in fact, the idea that GMOs were to blame for what was dubbed “Colony Collapse Disorder” was quickly rejected by the scientific community.

Green groups in the United States then turned their attention to pesticides, who for long have been an enemy of environmentalists who advocate for a return to traditionalist farming methods. Neonicotinoids as well as alternative products such as sulfoxaflor, have been targeted ever since as “bee-killing pesticides,” despite their significant importance for modern farming.

The scientific community however also rejected those claims for sulfoxaflor as recently as July last year. Claims that the said compound was also negated by both the European Food Safety Authority EFSA and the EPA, which calls it “better for species across the board.”

However, it isn’t just that the crop protection products blamed for bee declines aren’t responsible, but also that colony losses overall are a temporary phenomenon.

All it takes is a look at the statistics of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. The data (which can be found here) shows that for 2020 numbers, there is an increase of beehives by 17% since 2010, 35% since the year 2000, and a 90% increase since the data was collected in 1961.

The most common threat that bees are supposedly subjected to by humans are neonicotinoid insecticides, known as neonics.

However, the popularization of neonics and its alternatives in the mid-’90s doesn’t trigger a collapse of bee populations. In the United States, the numbers of bee colonies have been stable for 30 years, while in Europe – where farmers also use these insecticides – the number has increased by 20%.

Yet environmentalists are expected to continue painting modern agriculture as a scapegoat, even in times when food inflation and supply shortages show us that we cannot afford a model that reduces productivity (as organic farming or agroecological processes do).

Despite the fact that farmers need crop protection products to assure that food products are affordable, safe and available, green activists call for an agricultural model that would all but outlaw them, thus making consumers worse off.

The European Union is slowly walking back its plans that would have cut pesticide use by 50% in the next few years — a rethink sparked by the war in Ukraine, which has created significant supply chain disruptions.

The United States should be proud of its agricultural success. Over time, with innovative technology, farmers use less and less crop protection products that leave fewer residues.

Meanwhile, consumers can continue to choose to buy alternatives, even though those come at a premium. This system makes up the beauty of an open economy: choices for consumers and stability for farmers.

Originally published here

Russia Is Orchestrating a New Holodomor in Ukraine

Every once in a while I talk to my grandad about what life was like in Ukraine during the Soviet Union. As a passionate patriot of a free Ukraine, he generally doesn’t like to discuss this time in history. But recently, he shared with me a story about the Great Deficit, which occurred in the 1970s, a short time after my dad was born. Products that were made in Ukraine, such as sausages, peas, flour, corn, and buckwheat, were forcefully taken to Russia for sale, leaving Ukrainian shelves empty. It would be an understatement to say it was hard to ensure that he, my grandma, dad, and other family members had enough food in their bellies..

However, the struggles of my grandparents’ generation were only the tip of the iceberg. The USSR’s inhumane starvation policy was at its worst in 1932-33 during which the Soviets orchestrated the Great Famine, known as Holodomor. The Soviets expropriated all Ukrainian grain and other foods. For being unable to meet unrealistic agricultural targets, Ukrainian farmers and peasants were killed, or starved to death, or both en masse. About 10 million Ukrainians died during this hellish time.

Today, despite the horror of these atrocities, the descendants of these Soviet occupiers are, once again, adopting the same policy in many southern Ukrainian regions, such as Kherson.

Russians occupied Kherson in early March. The region is known for its delicious watermelons, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Kherson alone has over 2 million hectares of agricultural land, making it the largest area of arable land in Ukraine. By comparison, all of Ireland has a little over 1 million hectares of agricultural land.

The fertile lands of Kherson and its location on the Black Sea coast have made it a much-wanted target for the Russians. Despite living under the loaded gun, people continue to resist Russian occupiers. To quell any resistance, Russia is attempting to tighten its rule on the occupied territories by pursuing a policy straight from the USSR’s playbook: expropriating agricultural goods and forcing farmers to work without compensation.

Albert Cherepakha, an agrarian from the Kherson region, shared a story about the Russian expropriation of his land. “Groups of armed Chechens, who call themselves Kadyrovites [named for Putin’s stooge ruler of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov], entered my farmland in the Genichesk district on 11-12 April. The armed men said that now my company’s property belonged to them. The Chechens warned that if any agricultural goods disappeared and were not accounted for, mass beheadings would occur,” said Cherepakha.

The soldiers also took over Cherepakha’s administrative building and started looting the farm’s agricultural products. A member of the Kherson city council Serhiy Khan, whose enterprise was taken over by Russians,  shared a similar story.

Other reports from Kherson claim that Russians have allowed farmers to plant only wheat and sunflower but have demanded that 70 percent of the production be given to them for free. In the neighboring region of Zaporizhzhya, locals spotted a convoy of Russian trucks  transporting the stolen wheat.

The expropriated food is taken to Russia and  occupiedCrimea, where shortages have become widespread. Earlier this week, the Krasnodar regional council announced that “expropriation of surplus last year’s and current crops of farmers of the Kherson region will be one of the tools to help small businesses and consumer cooperatives.”

Russians are not only killing Ukrainians, while threatening to use nukes against them, but they are taking food that was supposed to feed both Ukrainians and the world. Ukraine accounts for one-fifth of the global wheat production, with Kherson and Zaporizhzhya  being one of the major producing regions. The blockade of the Black Sea has already caused chaos in Africa, which is heavily dependent on Ukrainian wheat imports, and Europe, where politicians are scrambling to reverse the bloc’s unsustainable agricultural agenda.

For decades, Holodomor and the cruelty of the Soviets have been throbbing in the Ukrainian collective memory. Back then, the USSR managed to hide the truth about the Great Famine from the eyes of the world. This time around, we have the power to ensure that one day soon those behind every war crime, death, and stolen crop are brought to justice.

For the sake of my family, millions of other Ukrainians, and people across the world, the expropriation of Ukrainian food must stop and this barbaric plunder, which has plagued Ukraine throughout its history, must never happen again. In the words of my grandad, “Russia is a thug state, they have had nothing on their own, so they want Ukraine, but the world must finally stop them.”

Originally published here

Macron Will Have Little Time to Savor His Victory

Emmanuel Macron’s defeat of Marine Le Pen in France’s presidential election on Sunday was a victory for moderation over extremism. But despite the collective sigh of relief from the EU and many in the West, Macron’s work is just beginning and the road ahead is filled with obstacles. 

“Many of our compatriots voted for me not out of support for my ideas but to block those of the extreme right. I want to thank them and I know that I have a duty towards them in the years to come,” Macron said. 

Macron’s second-round campaign was carried by moderate left-wing voters, who wanted to prevent a Le Pen presidency. Marine Le Pen is widely seen as stigmatizing immigrants and religious minorities, all while opposing the European Union. Those voters made him one of the few French presidents to win a second term, but his margin of victory—58 percent to 41 percent—was not overwhelming and the abstention rate of 28 percent was the highest since 1969.

Most fascinating are the first numbers about the vote on Sunday, divided by age group and profession. Macron was largely supported by voters ages 18 to 24 and older than 70, while Le Pen carried 50- to 59-year-olds and was head to head with Macron in the 25 to 34 age bracket. Le Pen’s support mainly came from workers and employees in the private sector, while Macron got most of his support from government employees and retired citizens. 

Read the full article here

Europe’s Legislative Copy and Paste on Ag Reform a Warning for US

War is never a good time for an “I told you so!” It amounts to making a point on policy on the backs of the suffering of many.

That said, Russia’s war against Ukraine has laid the cards on the table not just on Europe’s energy dependence, but its entire sustainability strategy.

Activists in Ukraine have pointed out the degree to which Europe’s dependence on Russia’s oil and gas constitutes a foreign policy disaster; notably why Germany’s policy reversal has been so drastic, if not unprecedented.

While everyone talks about natural gas and the prices at the pump — now as high as $10 per gallon in some European cities, agriculture has been largely unmentioned, if not neglected.

Europe is very dependent on food and food components imports from both Russia and Ukraine. For example, Ukraine makes up 30% of global trade in wheat and barley; 17% with respect to corn. Ukraine is also the EU’s main trading partner for non-GMO soybeans (used as animal feed) as well as 41% of rapeseed, and 26% of honey.

Prices for wheat and corn are already skyrocketing in the war’s wake, especially now that Ukraine has banned the export of food products.

Farmers in Ukraine face a dire situation. Harvest season is going to be non-existent for many, as their crop fields are either war zones or they have left those fields to fight in the war. 

The EU and the United States have sanctioned dozens of products from Russia, not least of which is fertilizer. For Europe’s agriculture market, this is especially challenging.

All of this puts Europe’s agricultural reform into question and serves as a cautionary tale for American lawmakers who have sought to implement similar “sustainability” on prior occasions.

The EU’s “farm to fork” strategy has been in the works for some years; it represents the overall sustainability ambitions of the bloc: more organic production, less farmland, considerable cuts in pesticide use.

The legislative package is a stepping stone for Europe’s environmentalist movement, even though it still criticizes European lawmakers for not going further.

Now that Europe faces the effects of the war in Ukraine, the biggest parliamentary group in the European Parliament, the center-right EPP (European People’s Party Group) calls for the strategy to be called off. “[The strategy’s] objectives must be reviewed, because under no circumstances can Europe afford to produce less,” added French president Emmanuel Macron recently.

Macron additonally warns of a “deep food crisis” in the upcoming months.

The nuclear phase-out of Germany has not only caused the highest electricity prices in the developed world and increased the country’s carbon footprint, it also increased dependence on gas imports — from Russia.

It appears that Brussels will now attempt to avoid a similar mistake with respect to agriculture.

Pausing “farm to fork” is likely to be only the beginning of the ag shift — as Europe runs short on non-GMO animal feed, the European Commission might speed up the process of allowing genetic engineering in Europe.

Right now, very few GMOs are allowed on the continent, due to Brussels’ strict environmental regulations; even despite the advice coming from the scientific community.

The commission had already hinted at a shift that would bring Europe’s legislation in line with the United States or Canada.

In Congress, food regulation in Europe has long been seen, by some, as an example to follow. Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act (PACTPA), a bill introduced by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., , and Cory Booker, D-N.J., would completely retool how America approves and licenses the use of pesticides while importing a “precautionary” approach that has so far stunted innovative agriculture in Europe.

In fact, this piece of legislation would copy and paste U.S. ag rules with those existing in Europe. A cardinal mistake, as the current crisis in Europe shows.

Originally published here

Russia Is Set To Weaponize The Food Supply In Their Latest Assault On Ukraine

Having failed to take Kyiv, Russia will now concentrate its forces in the east and south of Ukraine.

While the world is struggling to recover from the terrifying photos of Russian atrocities in Bucha, Russia is preparing a new attack. Having failed to take Kyiv, Russia will now concentrate its forces in the east and south of Ukraine. Odesa, one of Ukraine’s major ports, will likely become the next coastal target. Together with the port of Mykolaiv, Odesa accounts for 90 percent of Ukraine’s agricultural exports.

Some of the most prominent Ukrainian ports, such as Berdyansk, Mariupol, and Kherson, have already suffered extreme casualties. Cutting Ukraine off from the sea is a significant military target for the Russians because it would paralyze Ukraine’s trade. This would exacerbate the risk of rising global hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. If the U.S. and Allies fail to help Ukraine win this war as soon as possible, Ukraine’s progress to date will be lost.

Ukraine is a major exporter of wheat, grain, corn, sunflower, and rapeseed. In 2021/22 alone, Ukraine planned to export 20 tonnes of grain, 98 percent of that by sea. Since the invasion began, the supply of these critical agricultural products has collapsed.

According to Jörg-Simon Immerz, head of the grain trading at BayWA, an international agricultural group, “zero grain is currentlybeing exported from the ports of Ukraine—nothing is leaving the country at all.” The Russian Navy prevented 200-300 Ukrainian ships from leaving the Black Sea. So far, it seems that only Egypt, which is reliant on agricultural imports from Ukraine and Russia, succeeded in finding a way around the Black Sea blockade and getting the grain.

Some have suggested transporting the grain by train, but that presents many logistical problems. The longer the war continues, the more expensive it becomes, especially for the poorest countries. The situation is especially dire in Somalia, Sudan, and Ethiopia. The wheat shortages have caused the price of bread in Sudan to nearly double. A week after the war started, the price of sunflower oil in Ethiopia went up by nearly 215 percent. Combined with droughts and the post-COVID crisis, the continued blockade of the Black Sea presents a fateful challenge to East Africa, where 90 percent of wheat imports come from Ukraine and Russia. A report by the Centre For Global Development found that as many as over 40 million people could be pushed into extreme poverty due to the war in Ukraine.

The interconnectedness of our world has made it difficult even for developed countries to escape the scourge of war. In the U.S., farmers have to adjust the amount of crops due to soaring fertilizer prices. A Bloomberg survey finds that American farmers will plantmore soy over corn by 2 million acres this year. If the war drags on into 2023, it could be that neither will be possible to plant at all.

The war in Ukraine has also demonstrated that the European green agricultural agenda is not feasible. The Farm to Fork strategy would cut pesticides by 50 percent and increase organic food production from 7.5 percent to 25 percent. The EU is slowly realizing that it is very dependent on imports, and that a realistic food policy cannot include these supposed sustainability goals.

We have all seen what the Russians have done to civilians in Bucha and Irpin. If Russia seizes the Ukrainian South and controls one-third of global wheat supply, Putin won’t hesitate a second to take revenge for sanctions by depriving millions of the world’s poorest of Ukraine’s agricultural bounty. President Zelensky rightly said that Russia uses the Black Sea blockade and consequent starvation as a “weapon.”

Given the scope of disruption, it is only natural to wonder what can be done. The answer is simple: help Ukraine win this war.

Originally published here

How Ukraine Upended Europe’s Agriculture and Energy Policies

Every political consensus of the past decade is on the table, from pesticide phase-outs to nuclear energy.

In Europe, every political consensus of the last few decades has been thrown out the window. German pacifism, French president Emmanuel Macron’s belief that NATO is “braindead,” and now the continent’s entire agriculture sustainability strategy have been put into question. In response to disruptions in Europe’s food supply, the European People’s Party (EPP), the European Parliament’s largest parliamentary group, is demanding that the “Farm to Fork” strategy be called off.

The European Commission’s “Farm to Fork” strategy seeks a 50 percent reduction in pesticides, devotes 25 percent of agricultural land use to organic farming, and reduces fertilizers by 20 percent. Although the plan was initially criticized by farming representatives and received political backlash due to a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study that showed a considerable reduction in agricultural output, the European Commission pressed on with the legislative process anyway. However, now that the war in Ukraine and sanctions on Russia have impacted Europe’s food supply, the USDA study, which found that agricultural prices would soar between 20 and 53 percent if the Farm to Fork strategy was implemented, is increasing concern among the European Union’s (EU) elected officials.

For example, EPP politicians such as Italy’s Herbert Dorfmann are arguing that the European Commission “should avoid presenting other legislative proposals that have negative impacts on European food security.” The fact that one of the EU’s strongest political parties wants to forget about the most significant agriculture reform effort in decades should raise questions about the Farm to Fork strategy. If a new food system is so vulnerable to geopolitical disruptions, doesn’t that pose a long-term challenge to Europe’s agricultural security? Echoing Dorfmann, Macron stated that “[The strategy’s] objectives must be reviewed because under no circumstances can Europe afford to produce less,” and he added that a “deep food crisis” could emerge in the upcoming months.

Ukraine’s agricultural output makes up 30 percent of the world’s wheat and barley trade, 17 percent of corn, and over half of sunflower oil and seeds, including 88 percent for Europe alone. Ukraine is also the EU’s main trading partner for non-GMO soybeans, which are used for animal feed, as well as 41 percent of rapeseed and 26 percent of honey. Prices for wheat and corn are already sky-rocketing in the wake of the war.

The EU will need to question its approach to sustainability and seriously consider ways to improve its food security in the coming months. Everything should be on the table, from a faster reevaluation of rules on genetic engineering to a moratorium on new farming regulations. The effects of geopolitical disruptions on global and domestic food systems should act as a cautionary tale for those who seek radical regulatory changes.

Many of the incoming policy shifts in Europe will depend on the outcome of the war in Ukraine. Ukrainian forces have put up more resistance than expected, defeating Russia’s multi-pronged military offensive in the early stages of the invasion. Additionally, at least for the foreseeable future, European sanctions on Russia will remain in place. Excluding Russia from the SWIFT payment system, barring its airlines from European airspace, and restricting trade flows will have significant effects on the Russian economy. However, Europe is also heavily reliant on Russian natural gas—a situation that has contributed to Germany’s passivity towards Russia in the past. This fact has not been lost on Russian officials. Dmitri Medvedev, the former president and current deputy chairman of the Security Council, tweeted in February, “German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has issued an order to halt the process of certifying the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Well. Welcome to the brave new world where Europeans are very soon going to pay €2.000 for 1.000 cubic meters of natural gas!” 

Europe is scrambling for alternatives, looking for allies and more trustworthy partners to supply energy. Azerbaijan has arisen as an alternative supplier thanks to the Trans-Adriatic Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) and Baku’s announcement that it intends to double its natural gas supplies. Europe is also looking to increase its use of liquified natural gas (LNG), as its existing infrastructure (one-quarter of which is located in Spain) only operated at 45 percent capacity in 2021. Canadian candidate for prime minister, Pierre Poilievre, has even made increasing Canada’s LNG exports to Europe a campaign issue. However, along with searching for outside alternatives, Europe needs to increase domestic production to make up for the loss of Russian gas imports in the event of a complete cut-off, a policy outcome that looks increasingly inevitable following U.S sanctions on Russian oil imports. Last week, for example, Lithuania decided to block all energy imports from Russia.

When asked by the German media, Minister for Economic Affairs Robert Habeck did not rule outhalting the phase-out of Germany’s three remaining nuclear power plants and delaying the phase-out of coal use planned for 2030. In Italy, Prime Minister Mario Draghi is considering reopening shuttered coal plants. As Europe’s second-biggest coal producer, Poland is unlikely to face more vigorous calls to halt production. 

The European Commission has also delayed releasing its energy strategy, which was initially supposed to be revealed on Wednesday. The document emphasizes increasing renewable energy production in Europe but also calls for more “blue hydrogen,” which is made from natural gas. It appears that given the crisis in Ukraine, European energy policy is going back to the drawing board.

Originally published here

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