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