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EU must avoid counterproductive “rush to produce” and focus on long term sustainability of its food system


17 Apr 2009


Health & Consumers
Sustainable Dev.

New BirdLife paper on “Food security, climate change & biodiversity” looks at the choices facing the EU over food in light of the climate and biodiversity crises and in the context of growing world consumption

Brussels, 17 April 2009 – On the occasion of the G8 meeting of the Agricultural Ministers today in Treviso (Italy), BirdLife International and its Partner in Italy, LIPU, launched a paper reviewing the issue of food production in relation to the current biodiversity collapse and looming climate crisis.

The document dispels many myths spread in the wake of last year’s ‘food crisis’, arguing that there is no case for the EU to rush towards further increases in agricultural production in ways that would exacerbate the ongoing environmental crisis.

The paper, aiming to serve as a guide to EU Policy makers, explains why policies aiming at boosting EU food production would not help solve the world’s famine and malnutrition problems but could increase the long term threats to food security.

The intensive farm lobby has been painting a picture of a world facing imminent food shortage where the EU has a “moral obligation” to step up production and where environmental concerns have to take a back seat. In its report, BirdLife uses scientific and economic evidence to explain why there is currently no overall shortage of food in the world, why the real “food security” issue is one of conserving our fast dwindling natural resources.

Key recommendations are offered as a way forward for the EU:

Ø Whilst Europe should remain one of the world’s major food producers, it urgently needs to support developing countries in increasing their agricultural productivity in a sustainable way, particularly that of smallholders and the poorest farmers;

Ø Within Europe, long-term sustainable food production must be guaranteed by urgently addressing the environmental problems (degradation of soils, biodiversity loss, water over-abstraction and pollution, contribution to climate change) caused by current unsustainable agriculture production methods;

Ø Climate change is the biggest risk for global food production and must urgently be addressed, including by reducing the substantial emissions produced by farming;

Ø Ways have to be found to bring meat and dairy consumption patterns to sustainable levels in order to reduce their climate change impacts and wider environmental effects. Extensive grazing systems, and their multiple benefits, should be promoted as the optimum model in Europe instead of intensive, cereal-feed based systems;

Ø Finally, the stability and resilience of EU ecosystems must be improved so that they have a better chance of adapting to climate change and can keep delivering the essential services on which our societies depend. The conservation of soil, water and biodiversity resources and the maintenance of healthy agro-ecosystems is key to maintaining EU agricultural productivity and long-term food security.

The full document in English is available at:


For more information, please contact:

Herlinde Herpoel, Media and Communication Manager at BirdLife International -
Tel: +32 494 542 844,

Ariel Brunner, EU Agriculture Policy Officer of BirdLife International, Tel: +32 2 280 08 30,

Notes for the editor

[1] BirdLife International is a global Partnership of conservation NGOs working in more than 100 countries and territories that, together, are the leading authority on the status of birds, their habitats and the issues and problems affecting them. BirdLife is represented in 42 European countries and in all 27 Member States.

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