European agriculture could gradually reduce the use of pesticides, thus reducing their impact on the environment and biodiversity, while ensuring food security for millions of Europeans. This is the opinion of two experts in the matter, contained in a report published by EURACTIV, partner of EFE.
As explained by Pierre-Marie Aubert and Xavier Poux at a conference held in Paris on September 13 (AgroParisTech), it is possible to reach that point of balance.
The two researchers presented a ten-year estimate of what they described as Tyfa (Ten years for Agroecology in Europe).
The question they ask is how to feed Europe while protecting the environment and climate, given the decline in the production observed in organic agriculture.
Reducing the impact on the climate without drops in the production
"The current debate on the future of agriculture has stalled due to the impossibility of combining an increase in agricultural production with a reduction of the impact on the climate and biodiversity," says Pierre-Marie Aubert.
"To address this apparent contradiction, we have chosen to turn the question around; therefore, we are asking what the needs of Europeans are for a healthy and sustainable diet, and what agricultural models are necessary to achieve it."
Thus, the starting point of the report focuses on the impact on people's health of the current eating habits of Europeans. "Although we produce a lot, in Europe we eat too much, and our diets are unbalanced based on the nutritional recommendations of the EFSA and the WHO," the text says.
Rebalancing the diet of Europeans: more fruits and vegetables
The first necessary step is to rebalance the diet of Europeans, introducing more cereals, fruits, vegetables and protein crops, and consuming less meat, eggs, and dairy products.
"Our study shows that Europe should be able to feed Europeans with organic farming by 2050, reducing the emission of greenhouse gases by 40% and recovering biodiversity," explains Pierre-Marie Aubert.
This means gradually reducing the use of pesticides and other agricultural inputs, and adopting organic farming methods, such as crop rotation, the use of manure to fertilize the land, as well as ecological infrastructures, including hedges, ponds, trees or fences.
Production drop of between 10 to 50%
This scenario translates into a reduction of between 10 and 50% in productivity, depending on the type of crop, according to the study.
"So, yes, that means lower profits for the growers, but those losses can be compensated by the money they save by not having to buy so many agricultural inputs," explains Pîerre-Marie Aubert.
The French expert stresses that the "agroecological" scenario not only allows the European agricultural sector to feed its European consumers, but also preserves its export capacity for cereals, dairy products and wine. And it would also strongly reduce its dependence on imports of agricultural products.