On 21 February 2018, the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture was scheduled to vote on a report for a European strategy regarding protein crops (e.g. soya) – yet in a surprise move on 20 February, the vote was again postponed.
The report would have provided an opening to recognise that much soya from South America is illegally sourced and a major factor in land use change (e.g. deforestation). Because of lack of clear tenure rights, soya production also has negative social consequences. A vote could have steered the Commission to take action to address the significant problems associated with the production of the protein the EU imports to feed its pigs and poultry.
The likely reason the vote was postponed is that conservative voices from the EPP and ALDE group did not want to make reference to the more fundamental problems of our current agricultural system: intensive animal farming with all its environmental, health and animal welfare problems in the EU and deforestation, community rights and pollution problems in Latin America. As a major consumer of protein, such as soya, tackling the root causes of these problems is exactly what the EU should be doing.
Responding to the pulled vote, NGOs have addressed a letter to MEPs urging them to push for a Protein Strategy that would encourage community-scale crop diversity rather than industrial-scale monoculture; and would set incentives for lowering animal production and increasing prices for industrially produced animal products, thereby reducing overall demand. The EU should encourage the burgeoning plant-based protein market within the EU: human health and the climate could only benefit from keeping illegal protein crops out of the EU.