European Parliament concerned about the future of food

Posted by Editorial on 14th January 2009

The European Parliament has called for “immediate and continuous action” to ensure global food security. It believes the aid of €1 billion that the EU has decided to give to developing countries should be accompanied by fresh investment in agriculture and it calls for mechanisms to be set up to ensure that sufficient global food stocks are available.

In the space of two years, world food prices have increased by over 80% on average while cereal stocks have fallen in 2008 to a worrying historic low of 40 days’ supply, points out a report drafted by Mairead McGuinness. According to the World Bank, over 860 million people in the world are facing chronic famine and this figure could rise by 100 million as a result of the current crisis. Fortunately, commodity prices have fallen back to near-2006 levels but the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) fear they may fluctuate more, as global food demand is expected to double by 2050.

Ensuring adequate global stocks
Among the many measures proposed in the report, the European Parliament calls for the introduction of instruments to avert dramatic and damaging price fluctuations.

organic food basket

It argues that the EU should take the initiative by proposing a global food inventory regime, the creation of a worldwide stockholding obligation programme to ensure the availability of food and a better basic storage system for key production inputs (protein, fertilisers, seeds, pesticides) in developing countries, preferably based on private-sector players including farmers’ cooperatives.

Ministers also request a global assessment of the impact of the increase in biofuel production on commodity prices. They stress the need for international and regional agreements to ensure that energy crops do not jeopardise food security and they urge a firm commitment from the EU to give priority to second-generation biofuels which do not compete with food production.

Redirecting EU development towards agriculture
The House said they regret the reduction in the amount of development aid being devoted to agriculture, which was 17% in 1980 and only 3% in 2006, and urges the Commission to direct EU financial aid towards agricultural-led growth and induce governments to stick to their promise to devote 10% of national budgets to this sector. They also want new micro-credit facilities to be set up for small farmers, stressing the role such farmers can play in increasing production and in local food security.

The European Parliament is calling for the Commission to look at the impact of climate change mitigation initiatives in the agriculture sector and to provide resources for this sector so that such initiatives do not depress EU farm output. Concerns about the impact of climate change on the world’s food supply continue to escalate.