Europes Global Land Demand SERI report 610x259 2

NEW REPORT: Europe and United States import millions of hectares of virtual land BRUSSELS (BELGIUM) / LONDON (UK), October 10, 2011 – More than 60 per cent of land consumed in Europe is imported while US demand for imported land increased by 100 Million hectares between 1997 and 2004, new research published today by Friends of the Earth reveals. [1]

The figures expose drivers behind land grabbing as delegates from around the world start negotiations today in Rome, Italy, on UN guidelines to regulate land grabbing. [2]

The report shows that an insatiable appetite for meat, dairy, wood and other products that require large areas of land from Europe and the United States, makes their ‘land footprint’ among the highest in the world.

Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Friends of the Earth International Food Sovereignty coordinator said: “Rich countries are biting off huge chunks of land from across the world to fuel their high consuming lifestyles. This is depriving local communities of their ability to feed themselves. It is also exacerbating land grabbing and land rights violations around the world, from Ghana to Brazil.”

Europe uses the equivalent of 1.5 times its own area in land. Germany and the UK are among the top land import dependent countries, each importing more than 80 million hectares a year. The EU average land consumption is 1.3 hectares per capita, while countries such as China and India use less than 0.4 hectares per capita. The US consumes more than 3 hectares per capita, four times as much as India.

On the other hand, Brazil’s virtual land exports increased 4 times from 1997 to 2004, mainly because of exports of meat and oil seeds. The study uses the most recent data available, from 2004, but it can be assumed that Europe and the US’s hunger for land is now even higher and rising due to the on-going increase in life-based energy sources such as biofuels and biomass.

Ariadna Rodrigo, Friends of the Earth Europe Resource Use campaigner said: “In order to reduce our land consumption and stop the harm we’re doing to other parts of the world, we need the EU to start measuring its land footprint now, and to start working out how to reduce our land use. Cutting Europe’s land use means focusing on quality of life rather than continuing to over-consume products.”

Friends of the Earth International is demanding that:

The EU and US immediately scrap any mandates or subsidies for the use of biofuels

The EU and US use on-going reforms of their farm policies to tackle their huge imports of feed and food.

The EU starts measuring its land footprint by making Member States report their land footprint annually and start taking appropriate and fair measures to reduce its land footprint

All Governments take a strong position in the UN negotiations on land tenure by opposing land grabs. Governments must instead ensure that communities’ rights and human rights and protected. They should also promote investment in small-scale food producers, ecological production systems, and strengthen local tenure rights



[1] The report ‘Europe’s Global Land Demand’ by Sustainable Europe Research Institute can be read at:

Friends of the Earth Europe and the Sustainable Research Institute have measured flows of ‘virtual land’ around the world, in order to calculate land footprints for a large number of countries and regions. The land footprint is made up of the land consumed domestically within a country plus land imported within products such as food and clothing, minus the land which is used for exports.

[2] For more information see



Kirtana Chandrasekaran, Food Sovereignty programme co-ordinator, Friends of the Earth International

Tel: +44 (0)20 7566 1669 email:

Ariadna Rodrigo, resource use campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe,

Tel: +32 (0) 2 893 10 34,