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The environmental role of protein crops in the new common agricultural policy. EU Directorate General for Internal Policies, European Parliament

Authors:
  • German Advisory Council on the Environment and Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

Abstract and Figures

This study provides an overview of the development and environmental effects of protein crop production in Europe. Nine policy options for supporting protein crops are presented: six inside the CAP, and three outside. We recommend an integrated policy approach combining the inclusion of protein crops into greening measures, investment in research and constraints on the use of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser. We conclude that increasing the production of protein crops would be an important contribution to the sustainable development of European agricultural and food systems.
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... The increases in legume production displayed in Figure 19b are reflected in Figure 20, where the proportional area of EU (countries that constituted the EU at the time) arable land dedicated to legumes jumped from roughly 1% in 1980, to over 3% in 1986. In 1982, the European Economic Community (EEC) introduced a series of deficiency payments to support pea, faba bean, and lupin production for human consumption, following previous similar payments for livestock consumption (European Parliament, 2013). Although attributing any particular agricultural policy reform to a particular trend is difficult, the response of peas to the introduction of this payment is suggestive of its positive effect across the EU (Figure 20). ...
... Although attributing any particular agricultural policy reform to a particular trend is difficult, the response of peas to the introduction of this payment is suggestive of its positive effect across the EU (Figure 20). As part of the 1992 MacSharry Reform, price supports were replaced with area-related direct payments for protein crops, cereals and oilseed crops, which were increased in subsequent years (European Parliament, 2013). Payments for pea were higher than for other crops, which may explain the continued production of peas as a European aggregate. ...
... Increased soya production during this period may also be attributable to the removal of restrictions from the Blair House Agreement, although the absence of import levies on oilseed and proteins remained. However, the Health Check also agreed the removal of the aforementioned protein premium coupled payment (introduced in 2003) by the year 2011 (2012 in several states) (European Parliament, 2013). This removal may be connected with the subtle reductions in these crops (especially peas) after 2011. ...
Thesis
In recent decades the pace, scale, and impacts of land use changes have become unprecedented. In Latin America, forests have reduced by almost 10% since 1990, with an array of drivers and causes implicated in these losses, including global dietary shifts. The scale and speed of deforestation represent considerable challenges for humanity, due to implications for forest based ecosystem services and the development of socio-economic-environmental trade-offs. In light of these changes, this investigation aims to analyse the role of socio-economic, environmental, and institutional factors in Latin American and Caribbean deforestation, explore the historical trends in consumption and production patterns linked to deforestation, and outline strategies to address these changes in the future. The complexity of studying land use changes, ecosystem conservation, rural livelihoods, and food production suggests the need for a multi-scalar and interdisciplinary methodological approach. This methodology should incorporate and analyse drivers, impacts, and trade-offs, but also allow for the identification of social, political, and economic responses to improve them or ameliorate their impacts. To address this, this investigation develops a composite index to investigate temporal and spatial patterns of forest vulnerability to socio-economic processes in Latin American and Caribbean forests. It applies mathematical goal programming to investigate, at the farm level, the manifestation of these vulnerabilities in the development of ecosystem service trade-offs, and highlights how decision-making may exacerbate these antagonistic relationships. Trend analysis is combined with participatory assessments to elucidate the historical patterns of consumption and production of protein-rich products, identify the barriers and opportunities for plant-protein production and consumption, and develop strategies to increase production and consumption of plant proteins across the European Union. Finally, a crop suitability model is implemented to investigate the potential of protein-rich crops under future European climates. The findings evidence the benefits of analysing complex processes from distinct perspectives and scales, providing a new understanding and aiding in developing actions to address negative aspects. This thesis has outlined the temporal and spatial differentiation in forest vulnerability to socio-economic factors across Latin America and teased out the sources of recent declines. The results infer the primacy and necessity of stable institutions and governance infrastructures to reduce vulnerability. Farm-scale mathematical goal programming highlighted the antagonistic relationship between maximisation of farm income and protection of ecosystem services, indicating the substantial and overt influence of decision-making on these relationships. These results signal the complex and antagonistic environment within which contemporary policy makers and decision-makers find themselves. They also reaffirm the need for supporting governance infrastructure to assist decision-making. Continuation of long-term global, continental, and national trends towards greater consumption and production of animal based products were observed, even in wealthier regions like the European Union. Agronomic, supply chain, and consumer awareness barriers were suggested to be preventing transitions towards plant protein consumption and production. In light of these, four robust strategies were formulated to encourage such transitions: increased research and development, elevated consumer education and awareness, improved and connected supply and value chains, and greater public policy supports. The urgency for the calls for increased research are underlined by the results of the crop modelling analysis. The results demonstrate the divergent effects of climate change upon European agriculture and the potential for novel crops like quinoa as robust protein-rich crop option under future European climates. To exploit the potential of protein-rich crops as potential animal product replacements in European agricultural systems, geographically differentiated planning, research, and breeding strategies should be implemented. The results of this investigation offer a series of outputs that can contribute to improving the knowledge base of the interactions between land use changes, ecosystem conservation, rural livelihoods, and food production to better inform future decision-making. In particular, to improve sustainable management of forests, reduce the extent of trade-offs in agriculture-forest systems, outline options for reducing external socio-economic pressures upon forests, and derive potential policy options for achieving the aforementioned. This research has established the benefits of a novel methodological approach for analysing land-use changes and for parsing out the interactions between them and socio-economic processes. The selection and combination of previously applied methodologies in an innovative manner has provided an enhanced understanding of food production, rural livelihoods, and ecosystem conservation at multiple scales.
... Farmers, grower organizations and experts from the European Innovation Partnership program (Von Richthofen et al., 2006a;EIP-AGRI, 2014;Zimmer et al., 2016;PGRO, 2018) hold low temporal yield stability responsible for the low proportion of grain legumes among other factors. Other drivers for the low proportion are associated with the specialization and intensification of farms on cereal crops, rapeseed and maize and importing relatively cheap protein for livestock feed (Zander et al., 2016), unpredictable policy support for protein crops (Bues et al., 2013), and lack of awareness of the positive rotational effects of legumes at the cropping system (CS) scale (Preissel et al., 2015). At the same time there is a high consumer willingness to pay for animal products produced with local protein feed (Profeta & Hamm, 2019), but this has not yet generated a large market for European grain legumes. ...
... At the same time there is a high consumer willingness to pay for animal products produced with local protein feed (Profeta & Hamm, 2019), but this has not yet generated a large market for European grain legumes. In Europe, perennial forage legumes as sole crop or in mixtures are grown on larger areas than grain legumes (Bues et al., 2013). According to Phelan et al. (2015), the main advantages of forage legumes compared to other crops are the low reliance on N fertilizer and the high feed value. ...
... Policy can provide direct subsidies or indirect support such as the use of legumes in ecological focus areas in the common agricultural policy. Pros and cons of different policy options were compared by Bues et al. (2013). According to Magrini et al. (2018) strong support is required from public institutions to coordinate the transition of the agrifood sector to include legumes for reasons of human health and environmental sustainability. ...
Thesis
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Legumes provide high quality protein for food and feed as well as other ecosystem services, but it is still challenging to use them to meet the growing global demand for protein, partly because European farmers consider their cultivation unprofitable and risky. This thesis aims to design legume-supported cropping systems and assess their environmental and economic impacts along with their production risks in European agriculture. The approaches used included (i) the development of a framework to design cropping systems and to assess impacts of management, (ii) modelling the impact of integrating legumes into cropping systems and assess trade-offs, (iii) the development of a statistical method to quantify crop yield stability independent of the mean yield, (iv) assessing grain legume yield stability statistically compared to other crops using data from long-term experiments, and (v) participatory methods to re-design legume-supported cropping systems. The framework consists of a rule-based rotation generator and algorithms to calculate impact indicators, following a three-step approach: (i) generate rotations, (ii) evaluate crop production, and (iii) assess cropping systems. It was used to design and assess legume-supported cropping systems in five case study regions in Europe and to identify trade-offs between economic and environmental impacts. On average, the generated cropping systems with legumes reduced N2O emissions by 18 % and 33 % and N fertilizer use by 24 % and 38 % in arable and forage systems, respectively, compared to systems without legumes. Grain legumes increased gross margins in two of five regions and forage legumes in all three study regions. A scale-adjusted coefficient of variation was developed as a stability measure that accounts for mean yield differences. Using data from five long-term experiments in northern Europe, this method showed that yield instability of grain legumes (30 %) was higher (P < 0.001) than that of autumn-sown cereals (19 %), but lower (P < 0.001) than that of other spring-sown broad-leaved crops (35 %), and only slightly greater (P = 0.042) than spring-sown cereals (27 %). The combination of on-station and on-farm trials with crop rotation modelling was useful when re-designing cropping systems. Nine agronomic practices were identified for improving grain legume production at the farm level. In this thesis, it is shown that legumes can provide both economic and environmental benefits, the instability of yields is similar to other spring crops and that cropping systems can be re-designed effectively in a co-learning process with farmers.
... At the same time, the EU has a 70% deficit in protein-rich grains that is met primarily by imports of GMO soya for concentrate feed from the USA and South America. 7,8 Almost all soy, but also a larger part of pulses and cereals consumed in the EU, is used for animal nutrition (Table 2). While arable land accounts for about 60% of EU-28 total agricultural land, domestic production of protein crops in the EU occupies about 1.5% and that of soy beans about 1% of total arable land. ...
... This confirms that increasing the proportion of vegetable proteins and decreasing those of animal origin in the human diet is a win-win situation from both environmental and nutritional standpoints. 8 Future research should also be directed towards yield variations in legume farming, also depending on the type of crop management (organic vs. conventional, tillage practices), the degree of irrigation and regarding its implications for water and energy requirements. ...
Article
Background In the European Union proteins for food are largely animal-based consisting of meat and dairy products. Almost all soy but also a larger part of pulses and cereals consumed in the European Union are used for animal nutrition. While livestock is an important source of proteins, it also creates substantial environmental impacts. The food and feed system is closely linked to the planetary and health boundaries and a transformation to healthy diets will require substantial dietary shifts towards healthy foods, such as nuts, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Results Extrudated vegetable meat alternatives consisting of protein combined with amaranth or buckwheat flour and a vegetable milk alternative made from lentil proteins were shown to have the potential to generate significantly less environmental impacts than their animal-based counterparts in most of the environmental indicators examined, taking into account both functional units (mass and protein content). The underlying field-to-fork LCA models include several variants for both plant and animal foods. The optimised plant-based foods show a clear potential for improvement in the environmental footprints. Conclusions Development of higher processed and therefore higher performing products is crucial for appealing to potential user groups beyond dedicated vegetarians and vegans and ultimately achieving market expansion. The Protein2Food project showed that prototypes made from Europe-grown legumes and pseudo-cereals are a valuable source for high-quality protein foods and despite being substantially processed they could help reduce the environmental impact of food consumption. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... Similarly, Sweden had also applied tax on mineral nitrogen from 1984 to 2010, but abolished it due to unsatisfactory competitive position of Swedish farm business as compared to other European countries. Such policies could be helpful in increasing the area of grain legumes in European farming systems due to N fixation ability of grain legumes (Bues et al. 2013). ...
Chapter
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Grain legumes offer many agronomic, environmental and socioeconomic benefits when grown in succession with cereals. They can increase the yields of following crops in the rotation. They fix indirectly atmospheric nitrogen, which makes them economical and environmentally friendly. Globally grain legumes are cultivated on an area of 201,728 thousand ha with a total production of 383,728 thousand tones. In Europe, grain legumes are cultivated on an area of 5726 thousand ha, which represents only 1.8% of total arable lands in Europe. Cultivated area of grain legumes is very low as compared to other words countries and, consequently , Europe imports yearly 20 million tons of soybean meals and 12 million tons of soybean grain. Farmers show lack of interest in cultivating grain legumes due to many climatic, soils, technical, agronomic and economic constraints. These constraints can be removed by technological innovations, provision of more premiums , increasing the sale price and grain yield, and reduction in yield variability of grain legumes.
... Growing concerns about future protein shortage are inducing a search for alternative protein sources. Especially for countries and continents (like Europe) where protein-rich ingredients are mostly imported, sustainable and local protein sources become increasingly important [1,2]. Insects offer an opportunity since they are rich in proteins (ranging from 13% to 77% on dry matter (DM) basis) and have been, in some parts of the world, part of the human diets for centuries [3]. ...
Article
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Insects are gaining interest as an alternative protein source for feed/food purposes. Although the lesser mealworm (LM) is commercially produced for human consumption, published data on its nutrient composition is scarce. This study reports on LM larvae reared on 18 different diets composed of side-streams to (1) determine the nutritional composition of the larvae and (2) study the effect of dietary changes on the larval nutrient composition. The LM larvae proved to be of good nutritional value with essential amino acids profiles comparable with that of beef and linoleic acid (C18:2) was the most dominant essential fatty acids in the larvae. The side-stream based diets varied on dry matter basis in protein (16–34%) and lipid content (2–19%). The nutrient content of the larvae reared on diets that supported good growth ranged between 37% and 49% of protein, 22% and 26% of lipid and 4% to 6% of chitin on dry matter basis. No significant correlations were identified between the larval protein or lipid content and that of the diet, but it was found between the diet nutrients and larval growth. Based on larval growth data and economic considerations, diets composed of wheat middlings with a 10–15% inclusion of rapeseed meal were identified as suitable feed for LM. Highest larval yields were obtained with diets containing 15–22% of proteins and 5–10% of lipids.
... 53 In fact, there is a close correlation between the increases in monogastric livestock, for environmental and GHG emission reasons and the importation of soybean meal as a recent study of the European Parliament has underlined. 54 Although the protein deficit is not new (it started in the 1960s with the EEC-USA agreements for the acceptance of the CAP in the GATT and the reduction of European maize tariffs as a compensation), 55 it has become particularly important since the prohibition of animal protein in feeds because of the BSE crisis. It creates distortions both in EU environmental and health (food safety) policies and casts doubt on one of the key elements of the CAP, viz., as the guarantee of supply of food through a policy that would permit the EU to be self-sufficient in agricultural products. ...
Preprint
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Climate change policy is focused on the de-carbonization of the economy. Little is said about the impact of agriculture on climate change beyond CO2 emissions, and how our model of food consumption, too focused as it is on livestock products, also has other negative impacts on the environment and human health. This impact, due to the intensive international trade of feedstuff, is not equally distributed between the global south (feed producer) and protein importing countries (meat consumers). Consumers are not well informed about the environmental/health impact of feedstuff production, particularly abroad, which constitutes a typical case of market dysfunction due to information asymmetry. This paper explores the possibilities offered by WTO law to introduce label/traceability requirements in animal feed/food chains, in particular the evolution of the case-law on process and production methods and the likeness test. It concludes that there are no legal obstacles in international trade law to establish an integrated (climate change/health) information system to explain consumers the comprehensive impact of their choices, domestically and abroad, along the whole production chain.
... Given the negative side-effects of many current agricultural practices, along with changes in both climate and international trade conditions, novel and resource-efficient production methods are needed. In Europe, less than 30% of the plant-based protein supplement fed to livestock is produced within the continent (Bouxin, 2014;Bues et al., 2013). Moreover, rotations have become very narrow and their sustainability is often questioned (Tilman et al., 2002). ...
Chapter
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Food, from staple cereal grains to high protein legumes and oilseed crops, is central to human development and well‐being. The complexity of global food security is challenging and will be made more so under climate change. Climate change caused by emissions of greenhouse gases is expected to directly influence crop production systems for food, feed, or fodder; to affect livestock health; and to alter the pattern and balance of trade of food and food products. An important change for agriculture system is increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Ozone in the atmosphere is concentrated mostly in the upper layers of the atmosphere where it absorbs UV radiation. Climate change affects agriculture and food production in complex ways. It affects food production directly through changes in agroecological conditions and indirectly by affecting growth and distribution of incomes, and thus demand for agricultural produce.
Article
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Grain legumes have declined to a low base in many regions of intensified agriculture yet have the potential both to safeguard food security and satisfy rising ethical demands from food consumers. Here, the scope for legume expansion is examined in a long‐established agricultural region in eastern Scotland where grain legumes declined to <0.3% of cropped area in the 1930s and now vary around 1%. Data from the EU's Integrated Administrative and Control System (IACS) were combined with national agricultural survey to resolve uncertainties over possible restrictions to expansion following 20th‐century intensification. The grain legumes, peas and beans for animal and human consumption, were found to occupy six crop‐grass systems covering a wide range of agronomic input and geographical location. The phase of agricultural intensification between 1950 and 1990 had widened rather than restricted the systems in which they occur and could expand. Moreover, the diversity of the crop‐grass systems provides scope for complementary expansion of several products such as beans for aquaculture, pulses for human consumption, and peas for stockfeed without diminishing the areas of the most profitable crops. Among crop systems, N inputs following 20% legume inclusion would fall from the current 178 to 140 kg/ha (78.6%) at the high‐input end of the range and from 92 to 71 kg/ha (77.0%) at the low‐input end. Further reductions to 50%–60% of the existing N input to intensive crop sequences were estimated assuming a residual fixed nitrogen of 50–75 kg/ha and legume inclusion of 33%. Legume expansion would also bring a range of environmental benefits across all crop‐grass systems. While analysis using IACS brought many insights, major limitations to estimating national N‐balances were identified in lack of data on residual N following legumes, in imported animal feed and in the contribution of forage legumes to grassland.
Chapter
Human food security requires both the production of sufficient quantities of high-quality protein and dietary change. This is particularly relevant given the present concurrence of rising human population, climate change and changing consumption habits. Pulses are recognized as being readily available sources of protein, complex carbohydrates, fibres, vitamins and minerals. Additionally, pulses, as well as other legumes, have the exceptional capacity of significantly increasing soil fertility, yields of companion or subsequent crops, biodiversity, environmental protection and climate change mitigation. Despite this, the use of pulses for food purposes is low in Western Europe, where pulses are mainly used for feed. This chapter reviews some of the environmental, nutritional and health benefits of pulses, and presents the main results of a campaign developed in a food service setting as an example of ways to increase the amount of pulse consumption. Results show a high acceptability of pulse consumption, whenever food services present alternatives to meat protein based on pulse protein.
Article
Legumes are important in world agriculture, providing biologically fixed nitrogen, breaking cereal disease cycles and contributing locally grown food and feed, including forage. Pea and faba bean were grown by early farmers in Finland, with remains dated to 500 BC. Landraces of pea and faba bean were gradually replaced by better adapted, higher quality materials for food use. While grain legumes have been restricted by their long growing seasons to the south of the country, red, white and alsike clovers are native throughout and have long been used in leys for grazing, hay and silage. Breeding programmes released many cultivars of these crops during the 1900s, particularly pea and red clover. A.I. Virtanen earned the 1945 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on both nitrogen fixation and silage preservation. Use of crop mixtures may appear modem, but farmers used them already in the early 1800s, when oat was used to support pea, and much effort has been devoted to improving the system and establishing its other benefits. Although international cultivars have been easily accessible since Finland's 1995 entry into the European Union, the combination of feed quality and appropriate earliness is still needed, as < 1% of arable land is sown to grain legumes and an increase to 9-10% would allow replacement of imported protein feeds. Climate change will alter the stresses on legume crops, and investment in agronomy, physiology and breeding is needed so that farmers can gain from the many advantages of a legume-supported rotation.
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Capsule Without this prescription, populations of seed-eating passerines are unlikely to recover.
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In a long-term crop rotation experiment set up in 1961 studies were made on the effect of 7 crop sequences and 5 fertilization treatments on the yield and yield stability of maize. The soil of the experimental area was a humous loam (type: chernozem with forest residues) slightly acidic in the ploughed layer, with poor supplies of phosphorus and good supplies of potassium. The yields were evaluated with two-factor combined variance analysis, while stability was analysed using the variance and regression methods. In a monoculture the yield of maize was lower in every case than in crop rotation. The yield-increasing effect of crop rotation was inversely proportional to the proportion of maize in the crop rotation. Averaged over the fertilizer treatments, the yield-increasing effect was greatest in the Norfolk rotation (0.929 t ha-1), followed by the alfalfa-maize-wheat triculture (0.664 t ha-1), the wheat-maize diculture (0.324 t ha-1) and the alfalfa-maize diculture (0.26 t ha-1). The effect of year and crop rotation on the fertilization treatments was significant. It can be concluded from the experimental data that the application of stable manure and crop residues (maize stalks, wheat straw), supplemented by NPK, is an efficient method of fertilizing maize. Stable manure also improves yield stability. Both the variance and regression methods of stability analysis contributed to the characterisation of the stability of the experimental treatments in different environments.