New study: Agroecological practices in combination with healthy diets can help meet EU food system policy targets

In this study, an outcome of the Uniseco project, five explorative scenarios for future food systems in the EU were developed in a stakeholder process. Five scenarios emerged varying in the extent to which food system were localised or globalised and including agroecological practices.

A range of biophysical, environmental and social indicators, and potential for regional food self-sufficiency was modelled, and the economic policy needed to reach these futures by 2050 was investigated.

The main finding in this new study is that size of food systems matter most. Through reducing the overall size by reductions in livestock consumption and production, hence reducing total need of biomass production, greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced and a lot of land freed. If such changes are combined with agroecological practices that reduce use of pesticides and fertilisers, several of the EU environmental policy goals could be reached (see figure below). If agroecology is implemented just to produce high-value products serving high-income consumers through trade and diets stay the same, only two out of eight EU targets were met despite 40% of agricultural area being under organic management.

Economic modelling showed a need for drastic changes in consumer preferences towards more plant-based, agroecological and local foods, and for improvements in technology for this happen, as very high taxes and tariffs would otherwise be needed, which shows the importance of working on changing norms.

The study also looked at the ability for different regions to feed themselves under different diets and levels of agroecological practices which is shown in the figure below. Percentage shows ratio of people that can be fed with food from the land in the region. 2012 compared to different scenarios in the paper.

Read the full study here:

Röös, E., Mayer, A., Muller, A., Kalt, G., Ferguson, S., Erb, K.-H., . . . Schwarz, G. (2022). Agroecological practices in combination with healthy diets can help meet EU food system policy targets. Science of the Total Environment, 847, 157612.

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