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Friday, May 20, 2022

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Let no crisis go untapped! The federal government has bravely acted on this motto since the beginning of the Ukraine war. Goodbye to Russian gas and faster expansion of renewable energy is on the way.

It is different in agriculture. Due to the lack of exports of cereal, rapeseed and sunflower oil, there are strong price increases, as with fuel. Instead of reacting to this with sustainable strategies, stakeholders are asking for more than the old: the EU should suspend parts of the European Green Deal to ensure food security for the population.

The planned reservation of four percent of arable land must be postponed for two years, said the chairman of the European Parliament’s agricultural committee, Norbert Lins (CDU).

But these areas are not just fallow land. There are also hedgerows, mounds, field edges and banks, biodiversity hotspots. The four percent share was hotly contested in negotiations on EU agricultural policy. Actually, there should be many more areas of protection. If now they are going to be used to cultivate, the food crisis faces the crisis of biodiversity.

ecological priority areas

The so-called ecological priority areas should also be nibbled on. Normally, farmers are not allowed to harvest the vegetables grown there, but instead have to plow them to improve the soil. The EU Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski, wants to suspend this regulation next week, it was anticipated from an emergency plan.

The farmers’ association now requires that at least one herbicide be sprayed in priority areas to achieve better yields. This is precisely the logic of an agricultural system that has contributed to reducing biodiversity.

But neither should the farmers themselves be envied. Not only diesel, but also fertilizers have become more expensive, there is also a high dependence on Russia. Now Wojciechowski probably wants to help out with grants. In general, however, a transformation of the food system is more necessary than ever. This is not a fancy debate because the protection of soil, water, climate and biodiversity ensures the production base for the future.

Furthermore, Europe is not as affected by price increases. Food expenses of private households represent only 10 to 20 percent of our income. And we eat a lot of highly processed foods, of which the raw ingredients are only a small part of the value. In addition, there are price increases for electricity and fuels, so low-income people are getting squeezed. In this case, an increase in Hartz 4 rates would be the better reaction than relaxing ecological standards.

Depends on imports

The poor are starving in countries whose food security depends heavily on imports. The reason is not so much the lower deliveries from the Ukraine or Russia, but the associated global price development. East Africa in particular is facing a humanitarian catastrophe.

Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia are experiencing prolonged drought, while South Sudan is again experiencing severe flooding. Funding is needed here too, this time for the UN World Food Programme, which is underfunded.

There is basically enough to eat for everyone. The production is simply misused. In Germany, more than half of the grain goes to animal feed. In the US, almost half of the corn crop is processed into ethanol and ends up in the tank instead of on the plate.

fallow land use

Much more space could be created for food production in Germany than by using fallow land if agrofuel production were to be suspended for a while. In any case, biofuel is not as useful for climate protection as was long thought.

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In the long run, reducing food waste and eating healthier foods with less meat would be the answer. This does not mean that by 2035 all Germans will have to be vegan, just as 100 percent of electricity will come from renewable sources in the same year. Any government that tries to do that would probably be swept away in no time.

A patient educational work must be met with a certain benevolence. After all, organic farming also needs animals that produce fertilizer. Changing eating habits with a sense of proportion would be good and could contribute to long-term food security in the world. Politicians should seize this opportunity now.

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