Paris (AFP)

Grow more soybeans in France and Europe to feed livestock and avoid importing GM soy: Emmanuel Macron told the G7 his desire to recreate "a protein sovereignty of Europe".

While at the same time implicating Brazil for the deforestation of the Amazon used for the intensive cultivation of GM soybeans, is it possible to articulate such a European agricultural objective with that of the fight against global warming included in the Paris agreements?

1 - What did Emmanuel Macron say on the last day of the G7?

"Soybeans are needed in Europe today because they provide protein to feed animals, and we do not have any."

"This is the result of an old balance in the 1960s between Europe and the United States of America, and at that time we accepted a protein dependency. a very bad choice, it is bad for our great balances, because it makes a trip to something that could be produced in our territories (...) We must recreate the protein sovereignty of Europe. Europe must be able to produce its own proteins, for itself, to consume, as for the breeders ".

2 - How much does the EU import soybeans per year?

The European Union imports 17 million tonnes of raw vegetable protein every year (soybean, pulses, sunflower ...) of which 13 Mt are soya-based and represent the equivalent of 30 million tonnes of soybeans.

The EU is the world's second largest importer behind China (about 100 Mt per year).

In total, 87% of this imported soy is used to feed animals. And the essential is GMO, coming from the United States, Brazil and Argentina.

What puts Europe in the face of an untenable paradox, pointed out recently by Greenpeace: on the one hand, the Old continent forbids the cultivation of GMOs on its soil (except derogations for a type of corn, which is not a protein) . On the other hand, it imports GMO soybeans massively to feed its own livestock.

In total, the protein self-sufficiency of Europe is 35%, summarizes Sebastien Abis, an analyst of agricultural markets worldwide, a rate that is 55% in France.

In Europe, this rate varies according to the seed: 79% for rapeseed, 42% for sunflower and only 5% for soya, says a Commission report of 22 November 2018.

3 - Why such an imbalance of soy?

"The old equilibrium" to which Mr. Macron refers is a trade agreement negotiated in the GATT in the 1960s, which attributed the production of vegetable protein (soybean, rapeseed) to the Americas and that of starch (wheat, cereals) to Europe.

Europe's dependence on imported proteins reached very high levels in the 1970s, says the Commission.

In recent years, the trend has slowed down, especially in France where the production of soy and alternative proteins (sunflower, rapeseed, legumes, peas, beans) is encouraged.

"Poultry farms consume the majority of imported soybeans," says Corinne Peyronnet, an engineer at the Interprofession of Terres Univia Oils and Oils.

4 - Should we increase soybean production in Europe or prioritize a reduction in meat consumption?

A bit of both, say the experts.

The UN report on climate (IPCC) in early August suggests reducing meat consumption in developed countries, but also to intensify agricultural yields not to multiply the acreage to infinity and leave the forests ( and grasslands) play their role of storing carbon in soils.

"We will never achieve 100% autonomy in Europe, because the concept of sovereignty should not be modeled on that of nationalism, but it is essentially the increase in yields (rapeseed, soya) that will give independence through innovation, and new ways of organizing producers "believes Sebastien Abis, which provides for a" long transition "in order not to destabilize fragile livestock sectors.

"It is certainly necessary to increase the local productions, but it should not that the concern for the climate drift towards hyper-territorialized production logic or even confinement" which can return towards "dynamics a little medieval" of confrontation, warns Mr. Abis.

© 2019 AFP