In order to ensure global food security, the European Union must adapt its current production of food, rather than increase supply, according to a report published by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) on 23 May.
One of the report’s key findings is that around 40% of food produced across the world is never consumed, and instead ends up thrown away by producers or consumers. This amounts to nearly 173 kilograms of food waste for each European each year.
The report notes “structural problems in the food system” that must be addressed to increase sustainability of the European food system.
Far from being a major exporter of food, the report also shows that while Europe imports large amounts of foodstuffs, it imports more calories and proteins than it exports.
The EU produces large amounts of processed foods , which are heavily reliant on imports such as cereals and fertilisers. Due to the war in Ukraine, both of these goods are now in short supply, highlighting the need for a new effective system of food production both in Europe and globally.
Increasing European food production, as it stands, would only increase imports from abroad, worsening the impact on the environment. Behind China, the EU is the largest importer of products associated with deforestation.
The European Union’s current model of food production “has an exorbitant cost to our climate and biodiversity” the report states. Fundamental changes must be made to avoid exacerbating growing global food needs and the impacts of climate change.
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“The European Union’s food imports and its domestic production are fundamentally unsustainable as they eat away at natural resources, increase deforestation and deplete fish stocks all over the world,” the WWF states.
Urgent action needed
According to the report, European attempts to increase food production are not the answer to this crisis. Rather, this “would only exacerbate these problems.”
The EU is expected to propose a new legislative framework for a sustainable food system in 2023. The WWF states that this new framework must be a turning point in European food production.
“The European Commission can no longer hesitate to take decisive action to reduce the social and environmental impact of our food consumption,” the report's lead author Jabier Ruiz comments.
The WWF states that change is certainly possible, however. Consumers, once reluctant to change their habits, are increasingly receptive to altering their food habits. Nevertheless, the burden should not fall exclusively on consumers. It is up to governments, the WWF says, to prioritise food consumption policies on a global level.