The event’s theme is “Meeting the Food & Environmental Challenge: Sustainable intensification of food production”, while the European Voice’s debate is “European Agriculture is a good model for the rest of the world to follow”.
A wide range of perspectives have been presented, and, as the debate has unfolded, some very interesting information has been put forward.
Staffan Nilsson (making the case for the European model) said “that the philosophy underlying the CAP when it was created, i.e, to boost production and ensure a reliable food supply, should inspire other parts of the world.“
This is hard to disagree with, but vacuous in its generality: everyone wants that, but are the resources there to provide for what we currently (over)eat? And what are the consequences of supply food in the European (or more specifically, CAP) way?
As Alan Matthews (arguing against the motion) pointed to the fact that the European model was of its time, where there seemed to be “plentiful supplies of cheap energy, chemical inputs and other material resources.” He also pointed to trade distortions and their impact on price volatility, “thus undermining food security in more vulnerable parts of the world”.
Some points immediately stood out: Nigerian minister Akinwumi A. Adesina seem to have one key take home message from Europe: farmers need to be better organised to lobby for what they want, as they are in Europe.
If the mainstream European farm lobby machine is a model to transfer to elsewhere, then truncated and stymied change in the face of incontrovertible facts and objective impending climate catastrophe may be the order of the day globally.
Some of these objective facts were put by Ariel Brunner of Birdlife International. He pointed out that half of Europe’s farmland birds have disappeared in just 25 years, and even more of the Continent’s butterflies. He also added: “half the land in Europe now has less than 1% organic matter, which means that it is essentially being desertified (aside from the climate impact of all that carbon ending up in the atmosphere)”.
There were global trade issues pointed to also: “Currently, 80 per cent of protein animal feed for European livestock is imported which grabs 16 million hectares of land from local farming communities in South America, promoting GMO monocultures with devastating impacts on the environment.” Olivier Consolo (Director of CONCORD, the European confederation of relief and development NGOs).
While one commentator wryly remarked that the main lesson the EU can give to Africa is to become a trade barrier itself.
Interestingly, most of the comments and 3/4 of voters on the site so far have voted against the motion, though the latter gap is narrowing.