The EU is the world's biggest net importer of agricultural products: international competition for agricultural production land is rising dramatically.
The food situation in poor countries is getting steadily worse. By this year's World Food Day on October 16th 2010, 925 million people will be starving. "Even under the best possible and realistic circumstances, the poorest nations will fail by a long margin to produce enough food to feed their own populations over the coming decades" says Harald von Witzke, President of the Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture, a Berlin-based think tank. This rapidly growing shortfall will only be compensated for if richer nations are able to produce and export more food. The EU could be said to have turned a blind eye to this problem until now and there is a need to address this issue, which has as yet received little publicity.
Von Witzke expresses the view that the EU has neglected its agricultural research for too long, whilst becoming, amongst other things, the world's biggest net importer of agricultural produce. If one measures the EU's net imports in terms of the virtual area needed for their production, you would arrive at a figure of about 35 million hectares, according to Witzke. In order to meet its own demand for food, natural fibres, bio-energy and other agricultural products, the EU uses an area of land in other countries which equates to the entire size of Germany. By these calculations, the last ten years alone have seen net imports from virtual agricultural land increase by 10 million hectares. "The EU has become a virtual land-user outside of its own territory", says von Witzke, pointing out that this expansion of land used by the EU overseas is leading to deforestation and thus contributing to climate change. "We must demand", says von Witzke, "that the EU goes all out for innovation and high productivity in agriculture if it is to eradicate hunger, make a stand against climate change and maintain natural habitats."
Prof. h. c. Harald von Witzke
Humboldt Forum for Food and Agriculture e. V.