FOOD SECURITY SPECIAL SECTION
“The EU can and should make a contribution to global food security, but the current CAP is not the way to do it”
The European Commission says in its “The CAP towards 2020” communiqué that the strategic aim of the Common Agricultural Policy is to preserve the production potential of EU agriculture in order to “guarantee long-term food security for European citizens and to contribute to growing food demand”. Many EU policymakers and farm lobbyists say this aim justifies the continuation of a “strong” CAP, by which they mean there should be no further liberalisation of agricultural trade and no reduction in Europe’s agricultural budget.
But the whole argument about food security is a red herring. Food security is not threatened in the EU and has not been for decades. The EU is a leading exporter of food, and has ample capacity to feed its population. Indeed, due to biofuel subsidies, much of the arable land that could be used to grow food is producing methane and bio-diesel instead. True, the EU does import a lot of food, but these imports are largely non-essentials such as coffee and tea, together with feedstuffs such as soybean meal which is fed to livestock to produce meat. Much of this meat is subsequently exported or eaten by Europeans who on average consume more meat than is good for their health.
It is also misleading to imply that a “strong” CAP is all that stands between the citizens of Europe and food insecurity. Leaving rural development spending aside, 90% of CAP expenditure takes the form of direct payments to farmers. The EU quite rightly tells its international partners that these payments are largely “decoupled” from agricultural production. It is therefore hypocritical of the EU to tell its citizens that these same payments are essential to maintain food production.
The EU can and should make a contribution to global food security, but the current CAP is not the way to do it.
Stephan von Cramon-Taubadel is the Professor at the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development, University of Göttingen