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EU agricultural policies criticised on biodiversity



The EU’s common agricultural policy (CAP) for 2014-20 has been criticised by leading scientists because, despite claims of being greener, it contains vague and weak suggestions for protecting soil and wildlife.

Subsidies from the EU’s policy on agriculture accounts for almost 40% of the union’s budget. However, the environmental measures contained in it “are so diluted that they are unlikely to benefit biodiversity”, according to a new study.

Lynn Dicks, lead author from the Department of Zoology at the University of Cambridge, said, “Politicians are talking about the greening of the common agricultural policy – it’s a nonsense. If a firm made these sort of claims it would be stopped by advertising standards.

“It was a good idea to make greening compulsory for farmers to get their grants but the trouble is that the plan was so diluted in the negotiations that it’s completely ineffectual.

The study argues that some of the green measures proposed – keeping grassland, creating environmental focus areas and growing at least three crops on any farm bigger than 30 hectares – could actually cause more damage to the environment, because it would allow farmers to get funds to replace meadows with monocrops.

The initial proposal was much stricter and was criticised by the farming lobby and for this reason the EU looked at measures that could promote benefits to the environment, while not affecting productivity.

Authors of the study said, “Intensification clearly provides some short-term economic gains for farmers and the food industry. But these have to be weighed against the loss of public goods such as climate stability, landscape quality and biodiversity. The EU has lost a chance to improve agricultural sustainability.

Dicks added that if member states want, they can still use the policy in a good way.

Individual countries can turn this around, and use the CAP to protect their agricultural environments. Let’s hope they do it,” she said.

Photo: USDAgov via Flickr

Further reading:

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EU has ‘no choice’ but to give green light to GM crop

Defra scales down green farming subsidy plans

Defra launches subsidy consultation on how to benefit farmers and environment

Sustainable agriculture can help tackle climate challenges