Opinion: EU is much more aggressive than the US in promoting organic food – and could soon be No.1 in sales
One way to address all of these concerns is to expand organic farming. Organic production generates less greenhouse gas emissions than conventional agriculture, in large part because it does not use synthetic nitrogen fertilizer. And it prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides and the giving of hormones or antibiotics to livestock.
But the United States is not currently setting the bar high for growing its organic sector. Across the Atlantic, Europe has a much more targeted and aggressive strategy.
The farm-to-fork EU plan
The European Union From farm to fork strategy, often described as the heart of the European Green Agreement, was adopted in 2020 and reinforced in October 2021. It sets ambitious goals for 2030: a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, a 50% reduction in the use of pesticides and a reduction of 20% % of fertilizer use.
Recognizing that organic production can make an important contribution to these goals, the policy calls for increasing the percentage of EU farmland under organic management from 8.1% to 25% by 2030. The European Parliament adopted a detailled plan organic diet To reach this goal.
Today the United States is the largest in the world organic market, with $ 51 billion in sales in 2019. But the EU is not far behind at $ 46 billion, and if it meets its farm-to-fork targets it will likely become the world leader.
And this ambition is reflected in national food policies. For example, in Copenhagen, 88% of the ingredients for meals served in the city’s 1,000 public schools are organic. Likewise, in Italy, school meals in more than 13,000 schools across the country contain organic ingredients.
US strategy is technology driven
Unlike the EU, the US does not have a national plan to develop organic production, nor even a plan to develop a plan.
Less than 1% of U.S. farmland – about 5.6 million acres (2.3 million hectares) is cultivated to national organic standards, compared to 36 million acres (14.6 million hectares) hectares) in the EU. This small industry does not produce enough organic food to meet consumer demand, so much of the organic food consumed in the United States is imported from nearly 45,000 operations abroad.
As the U.S. government tracks imports of just 100 organic food items – a small portion of what goes in – spending in 2020 on those items alone exceeded $ 2.5 billion.
I see this gap as a huge missed opportunity. President Biden called for a “Buy American” strategy to support the US economy, but today consumers are spending money on organic imports without harvesting the environmental Where economic advantages of having more land under organic management. Increased domestic production would improve soil and water quality and create jobs in rural areas.
As the US and the EU work together to address the contribution of agriculture to climate change, they have very different views on the role of organic farming.
At the un Food Systems Summit on September 23, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack launched a new international coalition on sustainable productivity growth, calling on countries and organizations to join the United States in the cause of increasing yields to feed a growing world population. During his press briefings, Vilsack promoted voluntary, incentive and technological approaches produce more food, such as gene editing, precision farming and artificial intelligence.
Vilsack says the European Union’s focus on organic production reduce production and drive up food prices. This argument reflects a long-standing debate about whether organic farming can produce enough food to meet demand while using fewer chemical inputs.
The Strongest USDA strategy support is no surprise. It comes mainly from conventional farming groups, including Syngenta, Bayer and Corteva – three of the four largest agrochemical companies in the world – with their lobbying arm, CropLife America.
More organic does not mean going back
In my opinion, these American talking points are outdated. The world’s farmers are already producing enough food to feed the world. The question is why many people are still hungry when production increases year by year.
At the United Nations Food Systems Summit, many world leaders called for reforms to eradicate hunger, poverty and inequalities, and fight climate change. Food systems experts understand that the world nutritional security depends on empowering women, eliminating corruption, tackling food waste, preserving biodiversity and adopting environmentally friendly production, including agriculture biological. Not on the list: increase yields.
Addressing the role of agriculture in climate change means changing the way nations produce, process, transport, consume and waste food. I believe that when leaders demand cutting-edge science-based solutions, they must embrace and support a wide range of sciences, including agroecology – sustainable agriculture that works with nature and reduces dependence on external inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides.
The Biden-Harris administration could do this by developing a comprehensive plan to realize the untapped potential of organic farming, with clear goals and strategies to increase organic production and, with it, the number of organic farmers. Consumers are ready to buy what American organic farmers harvest.
More reviews: Modern chemical pesticides are needed more than ever to fight rising food prices, climate change and global hunger
Kathleen Merrigan is Executive Director of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. This was first published by The Conversation – “Unlike the United States, Europe is setting itself ambitious goals to produce more organic food“.