The Kremlin's brutal invasion of Ukraine is inflicting misery on so many, as they are killed, injured or forced to flee their homes. The invasion will have even further-reaching impacts too, as we see that global and European food and farming systems are out of balance and far from resilient to external shocks. It is clearer than ever that we must fundamentally reconsider the way in which we produce, consume and trade agricultural products. The urgent need to rethink our food and farming systems is of course not new, as it was already evident when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and the impacts of the combined climate and biodiversity crises – partly driven by the current food system – became apparent.
The recent disruption of Russian and Ukrainian exports of cereals, oilseeds, fertilisers and fossil gas (used in the manufacturing of synthetic fertilisers that underpin modern industrial farming) makes it clear that Europe's farming sector is dangerously dependent on external inputs and imports. In order to maintain its over-production and exports of animal products, Europe relies on cereal and oilseed imports from Russia and Ukraine, on Russian fossil gas and phosphate, and potash from Belarus. Europe, now more than ever, must transform its food and farming system and shift to ecological, local, seasonal and plant-based diets, making the system sustainable and resilient.