Press release: +3600 scientists: The EU Common Agricultural Policy must stop destroying nature
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Press release: +3600 scientists: The EU Common Agricultural Policy must stop destroying nature

9 March 2020 5:01am CET

The study is available here

+3600 scientists: The EU Common Agricultural Policy must stop destroying nature
Scientists deliver new ten step plan to reform the Common Agricultural Policy to fight the biodiversity and climate crises

Scientists from all EU countries and beyond say that the European Commission’s proposal for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) post-2020 must be ‘drastically improved’ in order to stop harming the environment. They propose ten urgent actions to reform the CAP for long-term food security, biodiversity conservation and climate mitigation. If adopted, evidence-based, planet-friendly farming would finally begin to reverse the taxpayer-funded destruction of nature.

Over 3600 scientists from 63 countries state that the current CAP is a central driver of the biodiversity and climate emergencies as well as failing on socio-economic challenges for rural areas [1]. Currently, the criteria to receive CAP payments are inadequate: the CAP is both unfairly distributed, and funds practices that cause widespread biodiversity loss, climate change, and soil and land degradation.

The scientists’ statement comes at a crucial moment as the next period of CAP funding (2021-2027) is negotiated – in parallel to discussions on the post-2020 EU budget, including how much will go to farm subsidies and what conditions there will be on payments. As it stands, the CAP risks undermining the European Green Deal.

From multi-functionality to monitoring and enforcement, the scientists’ ten actions may sound like EU policy jargon to the uninitiated, but these are vital steps to preserve nature in Europe. What these scientists have released is a recipe for the ecological transition of agriculture. To achieve this, they say that the CAP should stop funding destructive practices —immediately ending production subsidies and phasing out direct payments— and significantly step up support for farmers’ transition to nature-friendly farming. For example, they call for 10% of farmland area to be devoted to natural habitats such as hedgerows, flower strips or fallow land. There should also be specific funding allocated to farmers for nature protection activities.

The scientists express concern that national governments and the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament are diluting the environmental ambitions of the CAP “to defend the interests of a few at the expense of the many”. At present, the main factor determining how much “income support” a CAP recipient gets is the size of their farm: 80% of these payments goes to 20% of farmers. This means that farmers are stuck in a system where those with the most land receive most of the money – regardless of the environmental quality of their farming. A recent New York Times investigation has already exposed how the CAP serves narrow, national, oligarchical and agro-industry interests, even directly benefiting Czech Prime Minister, billionaire Andrej Babiš [2].

Welcoming the scientists’ declaration, Harriet Bradley, EU Agriculture Policy Officer at Birdlife Europe says:

“This urgent call from thousands of scientists is unprecedented and comes at a crucial point in time. National agriculture ministers and many MEPs continue to ignore the science and are actively weakening the environmental safeguards on farm subsidies when it should be the opposite. We should only subsidise environmentally friendly farming. It is outrageous and unconscionable to use public money for the destruction of nature. Over 3600 scientists rightly point out that the Commission’s CAP proposal is a recipe for disaster. The CAP really needs three key things to restore nature: dedicated space for nature on farms, money for nature and a just transition for farmers to environmentally friendly farming.”


For more information, please contact:
Harriet Bradley, EU Agriculture Policy Officer, BirdLife Europe
+32 2238 50 91


[1] As it stands, almost 60 billion euros of EU taxpayer money is spent every year on CAP subsidies that mostly fund intensive and factory farming. The CAP budget accounts for nearly 40% of the total EU budget. The intensive agriculture model it promotes directly leads to biodiversity loss, water and air pollution, over-extraction of water and contributes to the climate crisis. Reforming the CAP is urgent: the EU has lost 57% of its farmland birds since 1980. Butterflies, bees and flying insects are also in serious decline.

[2] New York Times investigation - The Money Farmers: How Oligarchs and Populists Milk the E.U. for Millions

What is wrong with the CAP?
Read the 260-page Fitness Check, indicating both environmental and socioeconomic weaknesses.

What makes the Commission proposal for the CAP post-2020 weak?
Read Pe’er et al. 2019, science (open access links); download the 65-page supplementary materials (PDF)

Why are the scientists concerned about further watering down?
Read COMAGRI’s vote of 2 April 2019 for proposed amendments here, and the initial proposal made by the Member States’ Council here.

See an expression of concern by 15 NGOs on the watering down of Conditionality here.

See Open Letter by professional societies of ornithologists, mammalogists, herpetologists and butterfly experts here.

Evidence-based recommendations made by scientists and other stakeholders in Ireland (see CAP4Nature here).

BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is a partnership of 48 national conservation organisations and a leader in bird conservation. Our unique local to global approach enables us to deliver high impact and long term conservation for the benefit of nature and people. BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is one of the six regional secretariats that compose BirdLife International. Based in Brussels, it supports the European and Central Asian Partnership and is present in 47 countries including all EU Member States. With more than 4100 staff in Europe, two million members and tens of thousands of skilled volunteers, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, together with its national partners, owns or manages more than 6000 nature sites totalling 320,000 hectares.

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