A letter signed by 2,500 scientists pleads for more sustainable agricultural practices. They call on policymakers “to act on the science, and undertake a far-reaching reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) without delay.”
It's not just the bees
In the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, there was no unified agricultural integration in Europe. Countries did as they wished, operated on their own accord, and that led to many inefficiencies. That started to change in the 1960s, when the CAP was introduced. CAP implements a number of subsidies and encouraging policies, accounting for around €60 billion ($66 billion) every year. Much of those funds go to intensive and factory farming.
While this can produce a great deal of food quickly (and consequently, tends to yield nice profits), it also turns “rural areas into green deserts of uninhabitable maximum-yield monocultures,” say researchers from leading organizations such as the European Ornithologists Union, the European Mammal Foundation, the Societas Europaea Herpetologica, the Societas Europaea Lepidopterologica and Butterfly Conservation Europe.
"Dear Members of the European Parliament," the letter penned by over 2,500 researchers reads.
"You have the power to decide the fate of Europe’s nature. We are scientists from all EU member states and beyond. We are observing bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian and insect populations suffering catastrophic declines due to harmful agricultural practices throughout Europe. We urge you to act on the science, and undertake a far-reaching reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) without delay."
The decline of insect populations has been thoroughly documented. The world is undergoing an insect apocalypse, and intensive agriculture appears to be at the core of this issue.
But it's not just the insects.
Amphibians are also undergoing a mass extinction -- not just in Europe, but almost everywhere in the world. Bird populations are also plummeting and mammals are also declining with few signs of improvement.
“The greening measures in the CAP are largely ineffective at retaining or restoring biodiversity and are too often poorly controlled,” the researchers wrote. “The current agri-environmental schemes are both underfunded and insufficiently targeted to meet the scale of the damage to farmland biodiversity.”
It's not the first time CAP has been criticized. While CAP has provided important support to farmers, it also encouraged overproduction and waste, leading to the infamous wine lakes and butter mountains -- produce which was dumped in other markets with negative consequences on local agriculture.
Furthermore, these issues are directly relevant to the CAP, as some of its fundamental pillars are "ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources" and "combating climate change" -- two aspects in which European agriculture is definitely falling short.
The group of researchers emphasized their availability for advisory.
"We are ready to support you in devising solutions as outlined above. Please do not hesitate to contact us," the letters concludes.
You can read the letter in its entirety here.