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Europe and Central Asia
15 May 2017

Over 250,000 citizens and 600 organisations demand a better food and farming system

Commissioner Phil Hogan and the Living Land coalition
Commissioner Phil Hogan and the Living Land coalition
By Maxime Paquin

Civil society sends a strong message to the European Commission: the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy is in dire need of a fundamental rethink. This is what 258,708 citizens and over 600 organisations and businesses told the Commission in the largest ever public consultation on agricultural policy which ended on 2 May. Indeed, it was the second largest EU public consultation ever after that held on the Birds & Habitats Directives.

On Thursday, 11 May 2017, Commissioner Phil Hogan was presented with the logos of 600 organisations that called for a radical reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. The Living Land coalition handed Commissioner Hogan the logos before a high-level conference(1) on the future of the CAP in Brussels, which was organised by BirdLife Europe and Central Asia in collaboration with the European Environmental Bureau (EEB).

The conference coincided with the release of the preliminary results of a study(2) on the CAP by Guy Pe'er and Sebastian Lakner. "The available evidence analysed so far points to major inefficiencies resulting from the lack of a coherent set of objectives, ineffective and partly conflicting instruments, and poor uptake of knowledge. We also identified very poor relevance of the objectives themselves, and that both farmers and the public are unsatisfied with the CAP and its outcomes. While the design and implementation of CAP instruments fails to meet current sustainability challenges, the good news is that the knowledge and tools needed to move towards a better and smarter CAP are available. What’s needed now is the political will to use them", said Pe'er.

“It is clear that the current CAP is failing farmers, citizens, and the planet, but we are seeing the emergence of a new movement bringing together many different interests around the need to revolutionize our food and farming system in a sustainable way”, said Ariel Brunner, BirdLife Europe’s Senior Head of Policy.

The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which takes up almost 40% of the EU budget, is a major driver of unsustainable farming in Europe, as it continues to stimulate industrial food production that causes environmental degradation. Unsustainable agriculture is the single biggest cause of biodiversity loss in Europe, causing the depletion of species like farmland birds and bees, as well as depleting healthy soil and clean water. The yellowhammer, meadow pipit, European turtle dove and red-footed falcon are but a few examples of birds that are vanishing.

Evidence shows that our rural areas have lost over 58% of their farmland birds, and 24% of European bumblebees are threatened by extinction, with inevitably significant economic losses. The CAP also fails to address the needs of rural areas: between 2007 and 2013, about 20% of jobs in the farming sector were lost, with an increasing number of small farmers being put out of business. 

During his keynote speech, Commissioner Phil Hogan admitted that the CAP had flaws and that the EU needed to do much more. “We must always strive to do more, and the CAP needs to step up to the plate and help to deliver on our ambitious international agreements, such as the SDGs and the Paris agreement on climate change”, he said.

The European Commission is expected to present the outcomes of the Consultation during a conference on 7 July 2017. The EU'S new Common Agricultural Policy should be implemented in all Member States by 2021.

 

Notes:

1. All the speakers' presentations are available on EEB's website.

2. The European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and BirdLife Europe and Central Asia commissioned Guy Pe’er and Sebastian Lakner to conduct a study, which was done in collaboration with Gioele Passoni, Clémentine Azam, Jurij Berger, Lars Hartmann, Stefan Schüler, Robert Müller, Marie von Meyer-Höver, and Yves Zinngrebe. The study was accompanied by an interdisciplinary scoping committee composed of Tim Benton, Peter Bezak, Aletta Bonn, Lynn Dicks, Neal Haddaway, Bernd Hansjürgens, Kaley Hart, Jennifer Hauck, Felix Herzog, Francisco Moreira, Amanda Sahrbacher, Christian Schleyer, Clelia Sirami, and William Sutherland. Over 30 additional scientists contributed publications to the database. The project has been supported by Naturschutzbund Deutschland (NABU), the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Jena-Leipzig-Halle, the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ, and the University of Göttingen. The project ran from January to April 2017. The results are preliminary and the analysis is still ongoing. We are fully aware that the study has various limitations including the fact that the analysis shouldn't be limited to just peer reviewed evidence, but also include expert knowledge, case studies, grey literature, etc. The database is available on iDiv's website. The authors welcome further contributions of relevant evidence via an online survey which will remain open until 15 July 2017. The authors shall strive to release the full report in Autumn 2017. For further information, read BirdLife and EEB's briefing document.


Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.