EU’s “Farm to Fork” initiative: A disaster in the making


The European Commission has introduced a “Farm to Fork” initiative for its member states to follow. Though the initiative sounds like something that might help the Europeans access healthy food and help farmers make profit, it is anything but that. A closer look at the tenets of the initiative indicate that it is potentially dangerous to the agricultural sector in Europe.

According the European commission, the initiative’s objective is to assure Europeans access to healthy, affordable and sustainable food, ensure a fair economic return in the supply chain, protect the environment, and preserve biodiversity.

Those are good objectives. But the strategies laid out in the Farm to Fork initiative act antithetical to its objectives. The following are the key strategies recommended to achieve the objectives of the initiative:

  • Develop Organic farming and help the EU’s organic farming sector to grow, with the goal of 25 % of total farmland being used for organic farming by 2030;
  • Reduce fertilizer use by at least 20%;
  • Reduce the use of chemical and more hazardous pesticides by 50%.

Here’s why these strategies antithetical to their praiseworthy objectives.

Organic Farming Means Destruction of More Trees and Loss of Biodiversity

Contrary to popular opinion, Organic farming is not necessarily an environment-friendly practice. When it comes to large scale agriculture where mass produce is needed for the billions of people on this world, Organic farming is not the future.

Growing organic plants for an average person’s organic diet requires 40% more land than that is required to grow plants and raise animals that are part of a conventional diet.

A study based on organic yield data collected from over 10,000 organic farmers representing nearly 800,000 hectares of organic farmland, organic yield averaged 67% of conventional yield. It found out that organic farms produce one-third less of wheat and soybean than conventional method and up to 62% lower Potato production.

That is not good news. Going organic would mean utilization of more land, eventually resulting in clearance of more habitat for agriculture and a possible loss of biodiversity.

Reducing Pesticide and Fertilizer Use will Usher in Farmer Loss and Food Poverty

Traditionally, the use of pesticides, including insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, rodenticides, and others helped famers to protect crops from pests. It significantly reduced the losses and improved the yield of common crops such as corn, maize, potatoes, cotton, and various types of vegetables. It also protected livestocks from diseases and ticks, and humans from vector borne diseases like malaria.

The drawback and the potential harm from pesticide and fertilizer use is only when there is an excessive use, as is the case in some of the developing countries where their use is unregulated and there is an absence of quality monitoring.

When used in an appropriate quantity both pesticides and fertilizers will assure farmers a guaranteed income and keep the demand-supply gap in check in the EU.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nation—which is globally recognized as a forerunner in helping countries with their agricultural sector and food security—the use of Fertilizer is extremely critical in ensuring productivity from the crops. And where fertilizer use is not so prominent, there is a very stark difference in crop productivity.

The FAO says that the lack of Fertilizer use has been one of the foremost reasons why Africa is still behind in crop productivity: “FAO data reveal that the use of productivity enhancing agricultural inputs in Africa in general, and in some sub-regions such as Eastern Africa, in particular, tend to be lower compared to other regions of the world. This extremely low fertilizer use per hectare is one of the most important limiting factors to increase crop productivity and production. In this regard, recent figures show that farmers do not significantly vary fertilizer application rates according to perceived soil fertility.”

Even in regions of the world which have gone 100% organic, farmers are struggling to offset this yield ratio. One such place is the remote Indian state of Sikkim, where farmers have experienced heavy loss due to their transition to organic farming. “When chemicals were allowed, I could grow 280 to 300 kg of pulses and now, after 4 years, I barely manage to grow 80 to 85 kg”, a farmer notes, blaming the low productivity and pest attacks for his monumental loss in yield.

Research has also showed that organic farming results in the depletion of nutrients in the soil. The study showed that besides causing a decrease in crop yield and efficiency, organic farming also caused a decrease in organic matter-related soil quality. Contrary to public perception, organic farming is actually bad for the soil.

One of the other key objectives mentioned in the initiative is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. However, using organic farming to do so is counterproductive. Climate alarmists argue that organic farming results in a 21% increase in emissions as compared to growing conventional farm products.

Even scientists who view organic products as superior varieties have reservations about the increasing use of organic farming. One such person is Alexander Ruane, a research physical scientist at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who says, “the goal of organic farming in developed countries currently is about meeting the needs of those who can afford the luxury to buy the highest quality food. If the needs of this luxury interfere with the need to feed the entire population, then you have the potential for conflicts.”

It is simply impossible to produce organic crops at a mass scale for the population. Even if we do manage to produce, it won’t be possible without a widespread destruction of forests and a destabilizing impact on our agricultural sector, farmer revenues and affordability at markets.

The European Commission’s proposal to reduce pesticide and fertilizer use will usher in a new era of European farmer poverty and imperil the food security of its member countries. It does no good to the soil or to the environment. It is time for Europeans to request their respective governments to resist the Farm to Fork initiative.

  • "Vijay Jayaraj (M.Sc., Environmental Science, University of East Anglia, England), is an Environmental Researcher based in New Delhi, India. He served as a Graduate Research Assistant at the University of British Columbia, Canada and has worked in the fields of Conservation, Climate change and Energy."

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