To tackle climate change, the European Union has decided to go all organic. Europe’s green agriculture — outlined in the Farm to Fork (F2F) strategy — seeks to reduce the use of pesticides by 50% percent. That looks very climate-friendly and revolutionary on paper. In reality, the F2F is extremely costly and will not help save the planet.
The U.S. should see the EU’s F2F as a lesson in how not to approach agriculture in the 21st century.
Pesticides are a critical tool for fighting pests and diseases that can decimate crops. They fall into the following categories: herbicides, which protect from the 30,000 weed species that deprive crops of space, water, sunlight, and soil nutrients; insecticides, which defend against 10,000 plant-eating species; and fungicides, which are used to prevent 50,000 plant diseases, such as mycotoxin contamination.
Limiting the use of pesticides will limit farmers’ ability to maximize food production, which will drive down food supply and drive up food prices. According to a recent study conducted by Dutch scientists, production will decline by 10 to 20%, or in some cases 30%.
Furthermore, the EU will attempt to impose this agenda on the rest of the world. Should that happen, about 185 million people will become food-insecure.
On top of that, organic agriculture is hardly climate-friendly. To name one example, a 2018 international Swedish study published in the journal Nature found that organic peas, farmed in Sweden, have around a 50% larger climate impact than conventionally farmed peas.
So far, the United States has been opposing the Farm to Fork strategy, calling it “protectionist.” However, with the recent launch of an EU-U.S. transatlantic platform on agriculture, it is unclear which approach will succeed in shaping the discourse. It is crucial that the U.S. doesn’t follow the EU’s flawed green lead.