Ukraine war: European Parliament votes on food security in the EU

Ukraine war: European Parliament votes on food security in the EU
A farm in Flanders. Photo by Helen Lyons/The Brussels Times

The Parliament voted on Thursday on the need for an urgent EU action plan to ensure food security in and outside the EU following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The resolution was adopted with 413 votes in favour, 120 against and 49 abstentions. In the text, MEPs call for immediate help in the form of food supplies for Ukraine, and for a reboot of the EU’s food production strategy.

Before the war, Russia and Ukraine produced almost a quarter of the world’s wheat and other grain, most of which was exported. Ukraine is a major global agriculture producer but the Russian invasion is expected to reduce the spring crop sowing area by half. President Zelensky has warned that the invasion risks causing a global famine, especially in countries that import most of their grain.

In a letter to the Parliament before the vote, a number of animal welfare organisations wrote that the war has hit Ukraine’s agricultural production hard, which, in turn, will impact the supply and price of wheat, maize, sunflower seeds and sunflower oil for both food and feed, to the EU and elsewhere in the world.

According to the letter, the looming food security crisis posed by the war in Ukraine could be viewed as “an opportunity to address our currently inefficient use of food resources and accelerate the much-needed transition to a plant-based diet that is less reliant on animal production as is envisaged by the Farm to Fork Strategy”.

European Commission data show that around two thirds of EU cereal production and 70% of oilseed production is intended for animal feed. Directly feeding people with plant proteins is far more efficient than feeding animals with cereals and oilseed. Reducing the amount of plant proteins used for animal feed is a key step towards ensuring food security in Europe, according to the NGOs.

This would also be in line with new calculations by Greenpeace. An 8% reduction in the use of cereals for animal feed in the EU would save enough wheat to make up for the expected deficit in Ukraine as a result of Russia’s invasion, according to Greenpeace.

The Parliament resolution calls for robust long-term humanitarian food aid for Ukraine from both the EU and at the international level and for EU to reduce its dependence on imports from too few suppliers. To reduce the dependence on fertiliser imports in the long term, the Parliament proposes a switch to alternative organic sources of nutrients for agriculture and support for agricultural innovation.

Given the disruption to agricultural imports, MEPs demand domestic food production be increased. Agricultural land should be used only for the production of food and feed. To address immediate needs, MEPs want it to be possible for farmers to use fallow land for the production of protein crops in 2022.

“The European Parliament voted for a resolution that endorses the current intensive farming model and the status quo of our flawed food system,” commented Olga Kikou, Head of Compassion in World Farming EU and one of the signatories of the letter.

“There's a strong focus on increasing, at all costs, production of protein crops that will be used as feed for farmed animals, instead of people. We see additional cashflows being secured for farmers and boosted aid to the pig meat sector. These measures are a huge set back and do nothing to address food security as one would expect.”

The Brussels Times

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