Land take and food security: assessment of land take on the agricultural production in Europe

Soil is a multifunctional, non-renewable natural resource for Europe as clearly expressed in the European Union (EU) Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection (COM (2006)231). Soil carries out multiple functions, including the support of food production. Urban development and its associated land take poses a major threat to soil and could have significant effects on agricultural production. This paper aims to evaluate the potential productivity losses in European agriculture due to land-take processes between 1990 and 2006. Agricultural land take was calculated using CORINE Land Cover maps of 1990, 2000 and 2006. For 21 of the 27 EU member states, agricultural land take was computed to be 752,973 ha for 1990–2000 and 436,095 ha for 2000–2006, representing 70.8% and 53.5%, respectively, of the total EU land take for these periods. The impact of this land take on the production capabilities of the agricultural sector for the period 1990–2006 for 19 of the 21 states was estimated to be equivalent to a loss of more than six million tonnes of wheat. The paper demonstrates that Europe's intense urbanisation has a direct impact on its capability to produce food.