An Taisce welcomes the decision of the Environmental Pillar, a national coalition of environmental groups of which An Taisce is an active member, to resign from the Agri-Food 2030 Committee today. We join the Environmental Pillar in denouncing the strategy produced by this committee as entirely inadequate to meet the social and environmental challenges facing us.

Dr. Elaine McGoff, Natural Environment Officer with An Taisce said of the strategy document:

This document is a masterclass in greenwashing. It uses all the right buzz words and makes claims that it will address environmental wrongs at some distant point in the future, but when you really look at what it is saying it will do and where it intends to go, it is clear that these environmental claims have no substance. They are just nice words on a page. We need urgent action by Government, not vague aspirations from an industry-led committee.

The industry-dominated Agri-Food 2030 committee was tasked with outlining the vision and objectives for the agri-food sector for the next decade, with the requirement to ensure the environmental, social and economic sustainability of the sector.

In the view of An Taisce, the resulting strategy document [1] demonstrates a significant failure to achieve those objectives. This strategy unconvincingly tries to frame Ireland as a world leader in the production of sustainable food, while simultaneously continuing an over-reliance on ruminant-based agriculture for export of meat and dairy products. This is a contradiction in terms in the view of An Taisce. The intensification of dairy production, with a 41% increase in dairy cow numbers to almost 1.5 million cows in the last 10 years, has been clearly identified as the primary driver of increased water pollution, biodiversity loss and rapidly rising GHG and ammonia emissions, violating EU limits and the Paris Agreement alignment agreed to by Ireland.

The strategy provides no credible pathway to address the impact of this model on the biodiversity and climate crises, or our rapidly declining water quality. It perpetuates a system that primarily benefits and profits the agri-food industry and large land-owners. It delays and fails to support a transition to sustainability for farmers or society. The weak measures proposed by the strategy do not come close to limiting the impact of yet more planned dairy expansion, let alone reversing the dramatic rise in agricultural pollution and environmental impacts over the past decade.

The current Irish agricultural model cannot be described as environmentally sustainable, nor can this strategy document, which promises more of the same. The situation is so dire that An Taisce have lodged a formal legal complaint with the EU Commission on the failures of the Irish Government to monitor and remedy unforeseen environmental damage resulting from the current FoodWise 2025 strategy [2] It is time for Government and the Minister and Department of Agriculture to accept their societal responsibility for this agricultural strategy rather than farming it out to an unaccountable committee.

The strategy’s fundamental flaw is its failure to recognise that the business-as-usual export driven intensification of animal agriculture can no longer justifiably continue; that system change toward food crops from tillage and horticulture, and the rebuilding of natural ecosystems for biodiversity is unavoidable, necessary and long overdue. At stake are farmers’ well-being, collapsing ecosystems, and an equitable transition for all of society if we do not change course now as a matter of urgency.

Agricultural policy needs a dramatic overhaul if we are to adequately protect the environment and support farmers at all scales. The EU has already signalled the changes necessary in the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies, but this document does not come close to aligning with those ambitions.

The Environmental Pillar repeatedly engaged with the drafting of the strategy to highlight the fundamental changes that are necessary, and the dire state of the environment that has resulted from a decade of failure. But our strong scientifically-evidenced concerns have been almost entirely disregarded in the final document. As such, this is a failed process, with a hugely flawed outcome, and no credible environmental organisation would be willing to put their name to it.

Dr. Elaine McGoff, Natural Environment Officer with An Taisce said:

This was ultimately an undemocratic process, with the agri-food industry pulling the strings. It was a sham, but through the Environmental Pillar we did our best to engage in good faith before being forced to walk away rather than be seen to support such a damaging strategy and flawed process.

Ireland needs a new vision that addresses the challenges we face and charts a new course to a model which works with and protects nature, and better supports and sustains Ireland's rural communities and family farms. This agri-food industry strategy once again positions Ireland as a laggard for environmental action, and makes a mockery of our ‘green’ image. Change is coming, and the longer Ireland puts it off, the harder the changes will hit.



Dr. Elaine McGoff, Natural Environment Officer with An Taisce said:

“The strategy document makes claims that it is agreed by all stakeholders in the sector. We strongly refute this claim, and highlight that this process is an utter failure in terms of protecting the environment, and a failure in terms of reflecting the inconvenient views of stakeholders who disagreed with the well-trodden intensification and export-driven path.”

“Ireland’s intensive farming is not the success story it’s made out to be, as An Taisce and the Environmental Pillar have been pointing out for many years. It is a gradual degradation of everything we hold dear. It’s high time we pulled back the curtain on this system and demanded a more sustainable approach for agriculture.”

Ian Lumley, Head of Advocacy with An Taisce said:

“The only thing Ireland is a leader in is the input-intensive production of dairy, loading huge environmental and social cost onto the Irish public, while the agri-food industry pockets the profits.”

“The EPA clearly outlined that Ireland’s green reputation is not supported by the evidence, and no matter how the agri food strategy is packaged, this fundamental truth remains, in spite of the sustainability claims of this strategy. You cannot greenwash your way out of incontrovertible science.”



[1] The strategy is yet to be published, but the final draft was circulated to the committee members this month, ahead of public consultation.

[2] An Taisce has initiated a formal complaint to the EU on foot of failures under the Strategic Environmental Directive (SEA) for FoodWise 2025. Article 10 of the SEA Directive sets out the provisions for monitoring of a programme subject to SEA and, notably, the obligation for remedial action where unforeseen adverse effects, such as air pollution levels, arise. DAFM have failed to address the unforeseen exceedances in a number of environmental indicators (water, biodiversity, GHG and ammonia levels) driven by FoodWise 2025 and identified by monitoring. These should have automatically triggered remedial action under Article 10 of the SEA Directive.