EU agriculture ministers agree: Plant-based foods are a priority for Europe

ProVeg welcomes recognition of plant protein production for enhancing sustainability

Europe’s agricultural sector must focus on the availability and provision of plant protein if the EU’s sustainability objectives are to be met, the bloc’s Agricultural Ministers have agreed. The call by ministers is in line with the shift in dietary habits in the EU, where most consumers actively reduce their meat consumption

“This is a welcome step and shows how the importance of plant-based food production is climbing the political ladder of priorities in Europe,” Lucia Hortelano, EU Senior Policy Manager at ProVeg International, said.

“A third of global greenhouse gasses come from the food system, and most of that is from animal agriculture. By acknowledging the potential of plant proteins in tackling emissions, the EU can promote the critically needed shift towards more plant-rich diets and ensure it leads the world on a pathway towards more sustainable food systems providing food security for everyone,” Hortelano said. 

The priorities for the future of agriculture in the EU are laid on in a document published by Belgium, which ended its six-month Presidency of the EU Council this week, handing over to Hungary. The document, called the “Presidency Conclusions”, was agreed by all member states except for Romania, which voted against it and Slovakia, which abstained.

The document, published by the Belgian Presidency following a meeting of Ministers of Agriculture and Fisheries on June 24, acknowledges in paragraph 23 that farmers have made progress in helping the EU achieve its climate, biodiversity, environmental, animal welfare and other sustainability objectives.

It also notes that the agricultural sector will need to continue efforts to reach these objectives and stresses that various climate-friendly agricultural practices can provide solutions to environmental and climatic challenges, including carbon farming. It therefore calls for more attention to the availability and diversification of plant protein sources in the EU.

“The message here is crystal clear. If we are to make further progress on reducing our emissions, we need to actively embrace plant proteins in the EU. The good thing is that the EU consumers are behind this transition, with most Europeans now actively reducing their meat consumption,” Hortelano said. 

Deforestation, emissions from animal agriculture

Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 20% of total greenhouse gas emissions1 and 32% of methane emissions2. It is also a leading cause of deforestation with around 70% of deforestation3 in the Amazon due to cattle farming alone.

Whilst animal agriculture uses about 80% of global agricultural land4, 5 – an area the size of North and South America combined – it only provides 18% of calories and 37% of protein worldwide. Therefore, a vast area of land is needed to supply a very small number of calories, making animal agriculture highly inefficient and harmful to the planet. 

Footnotes

1. Global greenhouse gas emissions from animal-based foods are twice those of plant-based foods | Nature Food

2. Cutting livestock methane emissions for stronger climate action (fao.org)

3. Sustainability | Free Full-Text | Reducing Amazon Deforestation through Agricultural Intensification in the Cerrado for Advancing Food Security and Mitigating Climate Change (mdpi.com)

4. Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers | Science

5. Ritchie, H., M. Roser (2019): Land Use. Our World in Data. Available at: https://ourworldindata.org/land-use 

Notes to Editors

For media inquiries, email Peter Rixon at [email protected]

For more data on food system change, please visit the Food Systems Data website here.

About ProVeg International

ProVeg International is a food awareness organization with the mission to replace 50% of animal products globally with plant-based and cultivated foods by 2040. Our vision is a world where everyone chooses delicious and healthy food that is good for all humans, animals, and our planet. 

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