The Dutch agricultural sector is said to have, relatively speaking, the lowest environmental impact of all countries in the world. This is what ABN Amro bank says. According to the bank, the joint ‘footprint of CO2, energy, pesticides and antibiotics in the Netherlands is the smallest per kilo of agricultural product produced.’
“We produce more per hectare of land here than any other country,” says Jan de Ruyter, agricultural sector banker at ABN Amro. “Wageningen University has students from all kinds of countries who want to learn how we do it here.”
The Netherlands, for example, scores high in combating food waste. For example, many residual products from the food industry are used to feed livestock.
Furthermore, biomass generated by agriculture is used with the aim of emitting less CO2. Plant residues are also used as raw materials for building materials, textiles, cardboard, chemicals and plastic. And CO2 released at Shell in Pernis goes through pipes to the greenhouses in Westland, where it is used for plant growth.
Our ‘footprint’ is also lower, according to Ruyter, because laws and regulations are stricter here than in many other countries. The use of antibiotics in animal husbandry fell by 64 percent between 2009 and 2016, partly due to government policy.
In 2015, pesticide use fell to less than half the level of the 1980s. To combat diseases and insects, arable and horticulturalists are increasingly using biological agents and natural enemies.
Although the footprint per kilogram produced is relatively low, the impact of the sector is also large. According to European standards, Dutch intensive agriculture is immense. It is the largest user of space in rural areas and, among other things, has the highest nitrogen and phosphate surpluses in the EU.