Food has been traded between regions for thousands of years. The tomato plant, did not originate in Italy as one might expect, but in the Americas. The silk road was formed for the practice of bartering. The American food system, specifically the animal industries, has been heavily scrutinized over the last decade. Contemporary muckrakers such as Eric Schlosser of Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan of The Omnivore’s Dilemma have incited public interest in the quality of agriculture produced in the US. From an economic perspective, factory farming is not just useful, but necessary. The demand for meat, dairy, and agriculture forces suppliers to produce more with better efficiency, a la’ economies of scale. However, managing food from this standpoint frequently upsets the balance of nature. The management of food is a huge subject; what to produce, how much of it, the quality, and the supply chain effects. As a nutrition and business major, I am fascinated with the procurement and movement of food. Therein, managing the careful balance between producing enough food for the population in the most sustainable manner. To narrow the topic, I would first like to examine the history of the Common Agricultural Policy, the system used by the European Union.
European economic integration occurred after the Second World War in order to prevent further political strife. The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was adopted in 1962 after extensive collaboration on food policy. With the food shortages from the war in mind, the original CAP formed the majority of the European Union’s budget. CAP operated through subsidies and quotas to ensure farmers against rock bottom prices. Many of the subsidies are still in effect, and today the EU spends nearly 48% of the budget on the agricultural policy.
Like corn and soybean subsidies in the United States, the CAP is very controversial because it opposes a market system and systematically favors countries with high agricultural output. The subsidies favor France and Germany, while hurting developing countries with weak agricultural support. Like exports of corn to Mexico, CAP exports damage farmers in poorer countries. Simply, farmers cannot compete at the market price. Recent reform includes the abolition of many quotas, including sugar beets. Countries with less agricultural output, such as the UK, are heavily in favor of CAP reduction. The subsidies make up a majority of the budget, while the GDP output of agriculture is much lower.
I hope to share more information about the European food system as I complete my study abroad semester in Germany. If you are interested in global food systems, I found these 2 sites particularly useful.