The United Nations has warned about the looming food crisis in light of the war in Ukraine. The poorest countries in Africa, heavily dependent on Ukraine and Russia’s wheat supplies, are at high risk of starvation and malnutrition. Food security is also crumbling in Europe, packed with refugees from Ukraine and other politically unstable regions.
Until the very last moment, no one in the world—except Russian President Vladimir Putin–knew whether the war would break out. One can then say that the food crisis caught Europe off guard. But that would be wrong. Europe simply ignored the red flags—and now it’s paying the price.
The European Farm to Fork strategy (F2F), presented in 2019, intended to “enable and accelerate the transition to a fair, healthy and environmentally-friendly food system.” That implied reducing pesticides by 50% by 2030 and increasing organic farming by at least 25%. Many European politicians vehemently defended F2F’s green goals. In October 2021, most Members of the European Parliament voted in favor of the F2F.
The U.S., however, had no illusions about the F2F. A groundbreaking 2020 report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that F2F would reduce “agricultural production by 7 to 12% and diminish the EU’s competitiveness in both domestic and export markets.” The U.S. also recognized that the F2F would impose additional burdens on the EU-U.S. trade talks.
Commenting on the F2F, David Salmonsen, senior director of congressional relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation, stressed: “A concern coming out of that for us is, in the future, could [Farm to Fork] result in some new trade barriers if they decide the way they want to produce food is the only way and they only want to let products in from outside that produce food the same way?” These concerns were particularly justified and shared by African countries, especially Kenya, as well. At home, multiple EU farming associations warned about the detrimental impact of F2F.
However, it took the war in Ukraine to make the EU realize the damaging scale of its green ambitions. Ukraine is one of the EU’s major agricultural partners, and it is only natural that the trade disruption has raised questions about the EU’s own food security. Less than two weeks into the war, the realization that the green agenda is not feasible has hit the EU.
On March 8th, European People’s Party (EPP), the parliament’s largest group, asked to call off the F2F. French President Emmanuel Macron also said that “Europe cannot afford to produce less.” It took the EU less than a month of war—not even on its soil—to realize that the green agenda is not fit for the challenges of today. And who needs such unsustainable policies to start with?
On the one hand, it’s great that the EU has now realized that green agriculture is unworkable. On the other hand, the whole drama could have been avoided in the first place if the EU had thoroughly considered the U.S.’s concerns. Moving forward, both the EU and the U.S. should use the F2F as a reminder that green policies sound great on paper—but they are not feasible.