One watchdog group, Friends of the Earth (FOE), slammed the European Union’s land footprint — the amount of land needed to to produce what keeps the EU ticking — in its latest report.
The study found that the EU needs almost 270 million hectares of agricultural land to produce its food, but from Indonesian palm oil to Chinese soy to Brazilian beef, nearly 40 percent of that land lies outside of the EU’s borders. Such a large land footprint — roughly the size of Italy and France combined — was labeled unjust, irresponsible, and unsustainable.
Shockingly, the EU does not measure its land footprint. The report said the EU “has limited knowledge of the amount of land the EU uses globally, and the related environmental, social, and economic impacts. As a result, combined action is not being taken to reduce risks to the global land system.”
In order to reduce those risks, the report recommended, among other things, that the EU reduce its land use through reduction targets and lowering consumption of land-intensive products. The major target of these reductions is animal products, which comprises 70 percent of the EU’s land footprint among livestock, dairy, and products like leather.
However, the EU appetite for biofuel is also highlighted as a massive problem. The EU promotes biofuel as sustainable, but in reality the demand for biofuel results in deforestation in far-away countries, replaced by palm oil plantations that infringe on the local population’s ability to grow its own food.
In wrapping up the findings of its report, Friends of the Earth Europe food campaigner Stanka Becheva laid out her vision for a radically different and sustainable future: “Industrialised agriculture and global food chains are swallowing up land across the globe, damaging the environment and rural communities. We rapidly need a just transition to a greener way of farming that works for all people and the planet.”
EU officials have recognized that the issue must be addressed, but so far, no action has been taken.