Why are European politicians questioning the efficiency of modern agricultural practices and the legitimacy of nuclear power while the rest of the developed world is improving its fission capability and allowing gene-editing technology to revolutionize production eating ? One might think it is Europe’s inherent need to differentiate itself from the rest of the world, but that would be to overlook the extensive lobbying efforts that have prevented the continent from achieving food and energy independence.
In 2014, former NATO Secretary General and Prime Minister of Denmark Anders Fogh Rasmussen described this phenomenon at The Guardian:
“I have met with allies who can report that Russia, as part of its sophisticated information and disinformation operations, has actively engaged with so-called non-governmental organizations – environmental organizations working against carbon dioxide. shale – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.”
The extraction of shale gas is known as fracking. Although legal and used in the United States, European parliaments have always opposed this alternative and preferred to rely on standard Russian gas pipelines. According to a letter Sent to then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin by U.S. Representatives Lamar Smith and Randy Weber, Hillary Clinton said in a private hearing in 2016, “We were even up against fake environmental groups, and I’m a great environmentalist, but these were funded by the Russians…”
Has the Russian Federation funded environmental activists around the world? A few other voices point in that direction.
WWF Germany, BUND (Friends of the Earth) and NABU (Union for Nature and Biodiversity Conservation), three environmental organizations that have declared themselves opponents of Germany’s NordStream pipelines with Russia, have dropped their opposition after Gazprom pledged funding for environmental protection, according to a 2011 European Parliament report. A foundation created by a German federal state, environmental organizations and NordStream (controlled by Gazprom) had filled its coffers with 10 million euros with representatives of environmental organizations sitting on the board of directors. Have these groups dropped their opposition to pipelines because of Russian funding? Whether or not they did is anyone’s guess.
Another striking example is Belgium, where Federal Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten (of the green party “GROEN”) has sought to dismantle Belgium’s nuclear power capacity. Van der Straeten’s old job? Lawyer and partner in a law firm whose biggest customer is Gazprom.
It is not only energy dependence that Europe has created, but also a significant dependence on food imports. According to European Union (EU), 19% of “other animal feed and food ingredients” imported into the bloc comes from Russia, along with nearly 8% of sugar (other than beet and cane) and just over 6% of wheat imported. While Russia’s total agri-food imports to the EU are only 1.4%, the country’s trade is vital for Europe’s animal feed, and by blocking Ukrainian trade routes, Moscow is worsening food security in the entire Europe. Practically, many of the organizations mentioned above have been adamant about shrinking European farmland, phasing out crop protection and blocking the use of genetic engineering.
The question of whether environmental activists were funded by the Russian state could help resolve the even more confusing investigation into why they have been telling deliberate falsehoods for decades. Take insecticides for example: When a decline in the honey bee population went unexplained for some time in the early 2000s, environmental activists first blamed their favorite boogeyman – genetic engineering. When this talking point was debunked by the scientific community, environmentalists turned their attention to neonicotinoid insecticides, and later also to neonicotinoid alternatives such as sulfoxaflor.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a March 2018 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, and reports from Canada and Australia, there is no proven link between neonics and damage to bee populations. The scientific community dismissed claims related to sulfoxaflor as recently as July last year. The European Food Safety Authority EFSA and the APEeven called sulfoxaflor “best for species at all levels”.
Not only have these bee health claims been dismissed, but the growth of the bee population across the world is on the rise. Data To display that as of 2020, there has been a 17 percent increase in hives, a 35 percent increase since 2000, and a 90 percent increase since 1961. In the United States, the number of bee colonies has been stable for thirty years while in Europe, where farmers also use insecticides, the number has increased by 20 percent.
These fallacies about crop protection and bee numbers have prompted countries to crack down on what even major news sources in Europe consider to be “bee-killing pesticides.”
In France, the far-right National Front of Marine Le Pen (itself supported by loans from Russian banks) supported a ban on sulfoxaflor in 2015. In 2019, the country banned neonicotinoids and sulfoxaflor, only to find it was causing a massive drop in sugar beet production. Paris had to suspend the bans as its beet growers were threatened with extinction but still received criticism from environmental organizations for their pragmatic decision. Again, the fact that Russia is a major exporter of sugar beets is probably purely coincidental and unrelated.
Are environmental organizations supporting the efforts of foreign governments in increasing the dependence of NATO allies on Russia? Even if not deliberately, they do it indirectly because their advocacy leads to food inflation and economies that cannot argue from a position of strength.
Bill Wirtz is a political commentator and political analyst in Europe.