Speaking up for nature – and for a sustainable future for farming

21st May 2020
Press Release

Nature has been thrown a lifeline by the EU Commission, with the publication of its landmark ‘Farm to Fork’ and Biodiversity strategies.

An Taisce commends the Commission’s newly confirmed 2030 targets, which include:

  • Reduction by 50% in overall use of – and risk from – chemical pesticides by 2030 and reduce by 50% the use of more hazardous pesticides by 2030.
  • The reduction of the use of fertilisers by at least 20%.
  • At least 10% of agricultural area to be under high-diversity landscape features.
  • At least 25% of agricultural land to be under organic farming management, and the uptake of agro-ecological practices to be significantly increased.

Taken together, these reforms will have far-reaching implications, with nature and biodiversity the biggest winners. Farmers too will see wide-ranging benefits, with diversification and soil fertility being supported and protected by the new measures.

For Ireland, the requirement to transition to at least 25% of our farmland to organic systems promises the greatest revolution in farming methods in the modern era. Ireland currently has among the very lowest percentage of farmland managed organically in the EU, at around 2% of total land.

This will mean increasing our acreage farmed organically at least 10-fold in the coming decade. This will be challenging and will need to be supported financially, but presents a unique opportunity for the ‘green’ rhetoric in our agrifood sector to become a reality.

Reform of the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) to focus on true sustainability and the achievement of ambitious climate goals is essential to ensure that EU taxpayers’ money is directed towards forms of agriculture that work with nature and respect and protect biodiversity.

For too long, agricultural policy at EU level has been driven by the interests of multinational agrichemical and agrifood corporations, keen to profit from industrialising the countryside and with scant regard for the devastating consequences of the use and overuse of chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers.

The growing dependency of many farmers on these extremely expensive and ecologically damaging inputs needs to be sharply reversed while the key EU goal of its agricultural systems underpinning food security across the continent is met.

It is ironic indeed that despite our ‘Origin Green’ marketing spin [1], the EU Commission roadmap is in fact pointing in exactly the opposite direction to the past 10 years of Ireland's agriculture strategies, written by food processors and rubber-stamped by politicians. These have disproportionately benefited the mega landowners and have intensified chemical usage, water, air and climate pollution impacts, and biodiversity losses.

An Taisce also warmly welcomes the Commission’s commitment to carrying out a review of the EU promotion programme for agricultural products, with a view to enhancing its contribution to sustainable production and consumption, and in line with the evolving diets.

We also welcome the EU’s commitment to promoting more sustainable farming and fisheries practices, reducing deforestation, enhancing biodiversity, and improving food security and nutrition outcomes with its global trading partners.

Good quality food, safely and sustainably produced, is the keystone for longer term European prosperity and resilience in the face of the rapidly growing threat of climate change and biodiversity collapse. The EU Commission has taken an important step toward this goal.

An Taisce regrets the negative response of the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) to the Farm To Fork strategy. Farm organisations repeatedly claim in the media that they are committed to ‘sustainable’ practices, to living up to the ‘Origin Green’ slogan, yet the same organisations are the first to use their lobbying muscle to try to block genuine reforms.

It is disappointing to see the IFA take the side of agrichemical and agrifood giants who profit from the current emissions-intensive and ecologically destructive model of farming that dominates Irish agriculture.

Contact: John Gibbons, PRO (087-2332 689)

[1] See also: https://www.independent.ie/business/farming/agri-business/greenwashing-could-backfire-on-farming-37971831.html