Europe was thought to be spared global investors' growing appetite for farmland. But a new study shows that they've long since sunk their teeth into the EU. In some areas, foreign investors own over a third of farmland.
The European Parliament on Wednesday presented a study indicating that farmland grabbing had been on the rise in Europe, with the focus of foreign investors clearly being on eastern European nations.
The study compiled by the Amsterdam-based anti-globalization Transnational Institute counters the widespread belief that the grabbing of farmland has only been going on in Africa and parts of Asia.
It says land grabbing in the EU as measured by the degree of foreign ownership involves a heterogeneous group of actors, including banks, investment funds and private equity companies.
Changes in order
Martin Häusling, a member of the European Parliament for the Green party, said "the EU principle of allowing the free movement of capital within the bloc should be curtailed with a view to strengthening a sustainable agriculture in EU member countries."
The study found that in Romania, for instance, between 30 and 40 percent of all farmland was controlled by foreign investors. It said the situation was also dramatic in Bulgaria and Poland and to a lesser degree in the Baltic countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The most active land grabbers came from western Europe, China, Kuwait and Qatar, the survey found.
It said the phenomenon of farmland grabbing was leading to a weakening of the environmental vitality of the rural sector, but also to the further erosion of Europe's model of family farming as it blocked young people's entry into agriculture.
The Transnational Institute warned of "real implications for European food security and employment."