Last year in Workpackage 7 we launched a so-called Delphi survey to explore potential future policy scenarios for legumes in Europe. Delphi is a structured and sequential method used to elicit expert opinion on a specific question allowing space for feedback and dialogue among the participants. We run our Delphi study in two consecutive rounds, the first one aiming to understand which factors contribute to the relatively low production and consumption of legumes in Europe, and the second one discovering which policy actions in the future could make legumes a more prominent component of the value chain.
The first Delphi round found that the major reason for the relatively low level of production and consumption of legumes in Europe is a “system lock-in”. This means that at both the production and the consumption side there are major barriers which limit the uptake of legumes and result in a hen and eggs problem: production is low because legumes are not competitive enough (compared to other crops) due to lack of demand, but at the same time consumption is low because legumes are not attractive enough (compared to meat and other food products) due to lack of innovative products.
Based on the problem framing and the potential policy interventions emerging from the first round, we asked participating experts in the second round to rank and discuss seven policy scenarios in terms of their impact on legume production and consumption, as well as their contribution to a sustainability transition.
Results suggest that policies encouraging the reduced use of inorganic N fertilizer can increase the cultivation of legumes. Investment in R&D, agricultural extension services, and knowledge transfer is necessary to support the production side and to allow for a smooth transition from high use of synthetic N fertilizer in conventional agriculture to precision farming and agroecological farming. Mitigation and adaptation strategies to combat climate change can have an indirect positive effect on legume production and consumption if these policies are implemented on large-scale and effectively. Policies that tackle nutrition, health and diet are relevant for the increase of legume consumption and indirectly, legume production. However, preferences, culinary traditions, and cultural habits are difficult to change with top-down approaches. Citizen led initiatives that inform and educate the public on the environmental and health benefits of legume consumption should accompany policies that tackle production and farming strategies (i.e. Greening payments, with other agroecological and rural development incentives, etc.).
The CAP was considered an important tool to support food production and protection of the natural environment. The Green Deal in general, and the Farm to Fork Strategy in particular, represent a substantial policy innovation that may positively impact legume production and consumption in the EU. However, the question remains: will the strategy be well implemented in the various member states and how will the barriers and system lock-ins be overcome across the different national contexts?
>>> Work package 7:
Eszter Kelemen, Balint Balazs