Brian Gardner's Blog

Recent turbulence in world food markets, the threat of climate change and concern about the vulnerability of too many poorer countries to food shortage has produced a plethora of ideas to increase national, EU and world food security. Needless to say, there are fundamental differences, particularly in the EU, on how such improvement should be achieved.

The fundamental division is between those who say that the EU should maximise production at any cost and those who believe that both internal and external security lies in a combination of sustainable expansion of domestic production and encouragement of increased third country production through more liberal import policies. This is also the fundamental philosophical division between those who want a strengthened CAP, combined with greater ‘Community preference’. and those pressing for both a reduction of official market manipulation and establishment of a more liberal import regime – hopefully through an eventual Doha Round agreement,

What might be regarded as the counter-reformists are undoubtedly in the majority. Strongly led by France, the major beneficiary of CAP largesse, 22 agriculture ministers met in Paris on December 10 to re-affirm their commitment to a strongly interventionist agriculture policy. After this informal so-called ‘G-22’ meeting, France’s agriculture minister Bruno LeMaire issued a declaration which stated that farmers should be given “decent” and “stable” incomes “in the face of growing market instability”. In other words the income guarantees sustained by the current CAP must be maintained.

Sometime later one of the minority of four EU countries who favour continued scaling down of the CAP and the greater application of free market principles, the UK, produced its own master-plan for future food security. Its ‘Food2030’ strategy, while emphasising the need to increase sustainable domestic production, also stressed the need to increase security of supply by liberalising food trade. Such risk spreading would provide greater security than depending on greater self-sufficiency, it argues.

Ironically, both these strategies depend on one key factor: the ability to increase food production without piling on more fertilisers, pesticides or fossil fuel dependent machinery. In other words, output can only be increased by greater productivity per arable hectare or per animal. The solution of this conundrum lies with the scientists.

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