At the high-level expert webinar «Safeguarding long-term food security», TP Organics, the European Technology Platform for Research & Innovation into Organics and Agroecology, officially presented its new policy brief on food security and organic and agroecological farming.
The Russian war against Ukraine has put food security in the centre of the political debate. But to achieve long-term food security, we need to rethink our food production systems, making them less reliant on external inputs (fossil fuels, synthetic pesticides and fertilisers, imported feed, etc.) and more resilient, as outlined in the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy. Despite enough food being produced worldwide, food security can be threatened by some intensive farming practices, unequal food distribution and income inequality, combined with inflation/increase in food and energy costs.
First expert Dr. Helmut Burtscher-Schaden, Pesticides and Chemistry Campaigner at GLOBAL 2000 (Friends of the Earth, Austria), is a prominent figure of the European movement to replace the carcinogenic herbicide glyphosate with environmentally-friendly alternatives and is deputy representative of the European Citizens Initiative Save Bees and Farmers. He pointed out misleading narratives of the agro-industrial lobby around the toxicity of pesticides in conventional and organic agriculture against the backdrop of the Regulation on the Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products (SUR) proposed by the European Commission and the EU Organic Action Plan. «In the face of the current crisis, there is no alternative to reducing pesticide use and restoring biodiversity. The phase-out of the use of synthetic pesticides is backed by European citizens themselves. Co-legislators should heed to the Commission’s call to find swift and ambitious agreements on their legislative proposals that will translate the citizens’ ambition into law.» Burtscher-Schaden adds: «The most harmful pesticides must be banned in the first place. To do this, we need a meaningful risk indicator replacing the current counterproductive indicator HRI-1.»
To make an agroecological Europe a reality, we need to address food waste and consumption/diets
Second expert Felix Wäckers, Director R&D at Biobest Group and part of the TP Organics Steering Committee brought in the evidence that rarely gets published that pesticides may even reduce productivity: «There are two mechanisms at play here: One being that the use of pesticides can aggravate pest problems by eliminating arthropod predators that normally control pests. The fact that this can actually compromise yield is something I recorded in a trial at a commercial onion grower last year. The grower used his usual four chemical treatments against thrips in his crop, except for a corner where I asked him not to use pesticides. At the end of the season, the thrips damage got out of hand in the chemically treated part, while the untreated part remained green and had 15% higher yield.» He expects to publish these results soon.
The foresight study «European Pesticide-Free Agriculture in 2050» shows that organic and agroecological practices reduce farmers’ dependency on pesticides and preserve crop productivity and farm profitability while supporting the prevention of pest and disease impact. Study lead Olivier Mora, Foresight Coordinator at French Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment, INRAE: «Our scenarios and simulation results show that a European transition towards chemical pesticide-free agriculture is possible and achievable. It will require strong involvement from all the actors of the food chain, beyond cropping systems, changes all along the food supply chains and food markets, and a coherent set of European public policies on agriculture, food, health, environment and trade to support the transition. Such scenarios are not just a sectoral issue but a societal choice and a global environmental choice.»
Sustainable food security requires system change and a paradigm shift away from the narrow «feed the world» narrative towards diverse, circular and holistic agroecological systems
To make an agroecological Europe a reality, we need to address food waste and consumption/diets. The policy brief and the three accompanying infographics clearly show that sustainable food security requires system change and a paradigm shift away from the narrow «feed the world» narrative towards diverse, circular and holistic agroecological systems. Organic farming shows that it is possible to produce sufficient nutritious food while preserving biodiversity, storing carbon in soils, and making our food production more resilient to the increasing impacts of climate change. In the Mediterranean, millions of people saw this summer up close what extreme heat looks like. Under extreme climate conditions, organic and agroecological methods have even been shown to be more productive than conventional ones, due to soil organic matter restoration and drought resilience.
Luca Colombo, Secretary General at FIRAB and TP Organics Advisory Board Member, calls for enlarging the narrow focus on yields only to embrace a greater food system perspective and to adopt new and more functional approaches to food security that include sustainability and agency as additional dimensions, as suggested by the High-Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS).
The policy brief puts forward 5 main recommendations for EU food security:
- Put in place a strong SUR, Nature Restoration Law, and Soil Monitoring Law;
- Increase support for organic to make 25% organic farmland in Europe a reality;
- Reduce food waste and loss;
- Consume less but better animal products;
- Include sustainability and agency in the definition of food security, involve all actors and implement true cost accounting.
Further information at www.organicseurope.bio
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