Written by 3:43 pm Editorials

Sacrificing the environment does not help European farmers

The EU is withdrawing two environmental measures to appease farmers. By doing this, it mainly serves the agro-industry.

The dire situation of European farmers, squeezed between environmental requirements, legal uncertainty and too low an income, drove them onto the streets en masse. Even though they were spurred on by national contexts, there was a common thread in their demands: a fair price for their products and a decent income.

To calm the anger, Europe quickly came up with answers. Two measures to protect the environment were sacrificed. First, the obligation to leave 4 percent of agricultural land fallow to promote biodiversity was postponed for a year (once again). Subsequently, Ursula von der Leyen announced that the European Commission is completely withdrawing its proposal to halve the use and risk of pesticides. The quick answers are not the right ones to address the farmers’ grievances.

Agriculture in harmony
The current agricultural and food system is hitting more and more walls. With a noble goal of producing as much cheap food as possible for a growing population, the policy steered farmers toward greater efficiency, specialization, and growth. But the model runs on fertilizers and soy imports, is liberally doused in pesticides, and pushes farmers into a spiral of scale and debt. The climate and environmental problems that that model causes can no longer be ignored. The only way forward is a transition to agriculture in harmony with nature and beneficial for biodiversity.

Farmers recognize this, but do not want to be the only ones who have to pay the associated costs. It is not the environmental measures themselves that farmers are opposed to, but rather the uneven playing field that this creates on the global market.

Of course European farmers realize that if pollinating insects, fertile soils and clean water disappear, the possibility of agriculture also disappears. Many farmers have already started the agro-ecological transition. They choose diversity instead of monocultures, cooperation with nature instead of fighting against it, autonomy and closing cycles instead of dependence on external inputs. And they produce for the local market instead of the global market.

With the launch of the Farm to Fork strategy, it seemed for a while that Europe would become an ally in this. Unfortunately, hardly anything remains of Farm to Fork’s ambitious goals.

After the farmers’ protests, Europe opted for the easy and short-sighted solution. By suspending regulations on reduced pesticide use and postponing mandatory set-aside, the Commission is burying its head in the sand.

Last modified: June 9, 2024