(Feedinfo News Service) - In the white paper, you argue that food security will become increasingly important over time. Rice is an example of a basic food which some analysts believe could experience shortages in the coming years and ultimately create social unrest . Do you beleive that the current global food plan is addressing such issues?
(Giovanni Gasperoni) - Rice is a perfect example. We have seen riots in Asia partly due to the fact that there was a shortage of rice. If we do not make food affordable for everybody, will have a food security issue. This will go beyond the problems of ethanol as fuel; it will go back to the fundamentals of the human being.
Unfortunately the western world is forcing rules and regulations on others that will make food more costly. It will be affordable just for the people who have more money and less affordable for those people who do not have money.
Here is an example: If Europeans want to have free range chicken, the demand is related to the increased cost of this protein. That is fine as long as you have people who can continue to afford to pay 4 times more per unit of protein. I do not agree though when those rules and regulations are imposed in Thailand, China, India and Africa because most people there cannot afford such a luxurious system. This will make protein so expensive that it will not be possible to create similar business frameworks in those countries. The only way those people will be able to afford protein will be during times of excess production in the rich countries who will then dump their excess food into poorer regions.
"Unfortunately the western world is forcing rules and regulations that will make the food more costly. It will be affordable just for the people who have more money and less affordable to the people who do not have money."
- Dr. Giovanni Gasperoni
(Feedinfo News Service) - The EU and other developed regions are focused on improving the food chain so that consumers are reassured about traceability and methods of production etc. This policy adds considerable cost to the production of food. On the other hand, population groups in parts of Asia and Africa are trying to ensure that there is sufficient food available and that shortages are avoided. How do we bring those two issues together on the same planet?
(Giovanni Gasperoni) - Unfortunately the people with the most money are the people with the strongest voices! In Europe, we talk about cage-free eggs without talking about the cost of eggs. By favouring cage-free hen egg production, there will be less eggs used in Europe and nobody is asking who will be producing the difference.
Today we are already in deficit. There is deficit due to a lot of wastage, but that is just part of the problem.
In Africa, for example, policy-makers with University degrees from Europe or the US, think they are serving their countries by applying the rules and regulations that exist today in Europe. This is regardless of the fact that Europe had been using a common practice in raising animals and crops for 50 years.
(Feedinfo News Service) - What would your message be to the politicians in Europe and elsewhere who are pushing ahead with expensive food policies? Are they just reacting to trends?
(Giovanni Gasperoni) - Definitely in Europe we are applying rules and regulations that are trendy. This also applies to the GMO issue. In Europe, the GMO debate is tiring because there is science already out there and so many examples that all the red herrings in Europe are false. Yet agriculture in Europe is penalised by its current policy. The US also has its tiring matters, such as ethanol and proposition 2 in California. The problem for me is that the EU is enforcing its rules and regulations to other geographic regions - for me that is totally unfair and one-sided.
(Feedinfo News Service) - How do you feel about the fact that large companies in the Middle East or Asia are moving into Africa, renting and buying agricultural land and using it to grow crops that are shipped back home?
(Giovanni Gasperoni) - For me this is a kind of 21st century colonisation. Look at China investing in African land. First of all, there is an internal investment. Chinese workers are then sent to Africa to develop the land and roads but the Chinese companies are not really giving any money to the Africans. However, this again is related to food security. China knows it has very limited arable land and a growing population, so they are investing to make sure they will have enough food to feed their people.
That tells you that we are already on the wrong path in Europe. In Europe, we are going towards a situation where food will be more expensive. This, in turn, will make people more unstable because they will not be able to afford the cost of food as it is today in Europe. We are really altering the equilibrium of the food map in the world.
"We do not have a global food policy for the next 10 years."
- Dr. Giovanni Gasperoni
We do not have a global food policy for the next 10 years. If you look at the FAO reports, the focus is on crops. Monsanto and other companies will continue to make corn and soybean meal and will perhaps eventually support the growth. But the world continues to use the precious water resources and continues to cultivate arable land, which is diminishing. There is no food policy. In contradiction to that, we have politicians stressing the importance of free range poultry production. Due to this free cage issue, there will be 20% less eggs in Europe. Meanwhile, China is investing in cheap land and crops in Africa. Eventually that will be their own harvest place to supply China. But do not forget that in Africa there are 1.5 billion people! All this does not make sense.
These policies will eventually create other problems. Europe might need 20% more eggs due to the cage issue. Countries such as Brazil will be asked to fill that vacuum. If I am in Brazil and I can send an egg to Europe for 50% more money, why should I send it to Saudi Arabia? But then Saudi Arabia will be without eggs. Besides demand in Europe, to another extent, is dictated by the supermarkets, who enforce the same rules and regulations in other countries. We need to start thinking this way because food, in general, is taken for granted. When food is not at our table, then it becomes an important issue.
This reminds me of the famous saying: “If you are rich you have many problems, if you are poor and starving then you have only one problem”.
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