Europe is more dependent on foreign land to provide it with products than any other region

October 10th, 2011 by Friends of the Earth

Europe is more dependent on foreign land to provide it with products such as food and clothes than any other region in the world, research published by Friends of the Earth reveals, as UN negotiations to regulate land-grabbing begin at the Rome summit.

(click report cover to download full report (5 mb))

The report calculates different national and regional ‘land footprints’ – land used domestically plus land used overseas to provide imported products such as crops and wood, minus the land used for exports – and exposes the reasons behind an international rush to buy land.

The study, based on the latest available data (2004), shows Europe imports nearly 60 per cent of the 640 million hectares it depends on for food and clothes.

The UK and Germany each import nearly 80 million hectares per year, making them the fifth and third biggest land importers globally, behind the US (242 million hectares) and Japan (171 million hectares).

Britons use nearly four times as much land per person than people in countries such as China and India, and Europeans use on average more than three times as much land, through their consumption.

The study reveals that Europe’s high and rising demand for meat, dairy, wood and other land-hungry products like biofuels are among the main reasons for our dependence on foreign land.

(click on image to download report's key findings)

The report also shows the UK’s total land-use increased by 16 per cent between 1997 and 2004, well above the rate of population growth. As developing countries increase their land consumption, Friends of the Earth is calling on policy makers in developed countries such as the UK to take steps to reduce theirs.

Friends of the Earth’s Resource Campaigner Julian Kirby said “rich nations like the UK are swallowing huge swathes of land across the world to fuel our hungry lifestyle, threatening local wildlife and the ability of communities to feed themselves.

“The UK is facing competition for land due to soaring demand from countries like China and India – with only one planet to share it’s in the economic interests of densely-populated countries like ours to cut their impact.

“We must tread more lightly on the planet to reduce our massive footprint through measures such as cutting waste, avoiding land-hungry biofuels and switching to less, but better quality, meat and dairy.”


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