The future members of the European Parliament will play a crucial role in defining the composition and the agenda of the next European Commission. Together with the Council of the European Union (where representatives of our governments meet), the European Parliament and European Commission will define EU policies for the next 5 years.
As Slow Food Europe, we believe that good, clean and fair food is a right of all. The production, distribution, and consumption of food cannot conflict with the right to enjoy a healthy environment and its fruits for generations to come. However, current trends show that the agricultural and food system in Europe is far from ideal: Current trends show that Europe food systems are far from ideal: in 2016, 9.1% of the EU population was unable to afford a quality meal every second day (Eurostat 2017); between 2003 and 2013, more than a quarter of European farms disappeared (Eurostat 2015); 20% of the food produced in the EU is lost or wasted each year (EC).
We cannot just blame decision-makers: we elect them. That is why Slow Food Europe has joined the Europe-wide This time I am voting campaign, which unites dozens of European non-governmental organizations, calling upon EU citizens to vote. Have your say! Vote for the candidates who respect European values and care about the future of European agriculture and food. Together, we can shape the Europe that we want.
Read Slow Food Europe’s Manifesto for the European Elections 2019
The forthcoming European elections will set the tone for the future of Europe. Over the last few years, the unity of Europeans and the strength of our values have been put through many tests. The 2014 European Parliament elections saw historically low voter turnout, averaging at 42.61% across Europe; with only about one in four young Europeans (18-24- year-olds) voting in the elections.
The latest Eurobarometer survey has shown that over 60 % of Europeans believe neither national governments nor the EU are doing enough to protect the environment, and 67 % (up 7 % on 2014) think that decisions about protecting the environment should be made jointly within the EU.
Slow Food Europe together with Slow Food Youth Network has answered to the question “why to vote in the European Elections?”. What does our food have to do with EU policy? What impact does it have on our food system? Read our answers published on social media in the second week of action for the European Elections.
70% of EU money is currently spent on area payments per hectare of cultivated land. The payment is largely independent of how the field is treated. 90% of these direct payments, for example, are decoupled payments that are made without taking into account the type and scope of production. In other words, environmental protection and resource conservation are not rewarded in monetary terms. In this context, 20% of farms in the EU receive around 80% of the subsidies. With this system, the EU promotes large industrial farms, which tend to have large areas. It is worthwhile for these farms to produce raw materials, plants and animal products only in bulk. As a result, ever more smaller farms are becoming extinct. We, therefore, demand needs-oriented payments linked to eco-services.
Because of far-too-small stable areas, piglets bite each other’s tails off, which is prevented by the so-called “docking”. Farmers bypass this ban on a massive scale by means of exemptions granted by the Veterinary Office, justifying that this satisfies animal welfare concerns. Instead of ensuring animal welfare through larger stables, the animals are mutilated. For animal welfare to be guaranteed, the EU must have appropriate laws and sanctions for non-compliance. Since larger stables mean enormous investments for farmers, investments in animal welfare must be promoted in a targeted and greater way, and the incentives for animal welfare must be firmly anchored in the Common European Agricultural Policy (CAP).
Over 80% of EU citizens want more animal welfare in livestock farming. However, neither the EU nor the Member States have yet presented a political or economic strategy.
EU agricultural support is based on two pillars: The first pillar covers area payments per hectare of cultivated land, while the second pillar takes account of environmental protection aspects. Within the framework of the latter, it is possible to grant annual premiums for particularly animal-friendly husbandry, such as grazing or more exercise space. However, this option has hardly been used so far.
We demand that the EU take the wishes and demands of its citizens seriously. Animal welfare must no longer be an option, but a condition for receiving agricultural subsidies.
Greening includes 3 measures: conservation of permanent grassland, diversification of cultivation, and the provision of so-called ecological priority areas, i.e. areas that have environmental interests. However, it is not possible for farms to implement these requirements effectively. Slow Food Europe is, therefore, calling for ambitious standards for climate, environment and species protection to be enshrined in law in the new Common Agricultural Policy.
The majority of conventional farms use pesticides at least once a season, but often much more frequently. The effects are numerous and linked to high costs for the general public: residues in food, groundwater pollution, and the destruction of food sources and habitats for insects and birds.
The CAP does not include measures to significantly reduce pesticide use. Exceptions are farms with more than 15 hectares of land. They must farm 5% of their land as “ecological priority areas”. Since 2018, the use of pesticides has been banned on these areas, but this is more of a token measure, a drop in the ocean that hasn’t had any meaningful impact. This is shown by the fact that bees and other species are now better off in cities than in rural areas. The CAP subsidies must, therefore, be linked to much stricter measures for the use of pesticide.
Even though the EU must provide funds for environmental protection and nature conservation, there is no separate funding pot for the conservation of biodiversity.
Instead, environmental funding has been integrated into the CAP.
At present, however, the CAP is not geared towards future generations. The CAP subsidies are aimed at intensifying agriculture and do not flow into support for climate and environmental protection or biodiversity conservation. The majority of the money goes into direct payments, which promote the most intensive and environmentally damaging forms of agriculture per hectare. These are hardly linked to any sustainability criteria (economic, ecological, political, social, or cultural).
We are certain, the EU must provide independent funds for the protection of nature and the environment instead of paying them by area to large agricultural enterprises that engage in intensive and environmentally damaging agriculture.
Do you want to help to influence the future of your diet? Give your say in the European Elections and stand up for the change from an agriculture-specific policy to a more holistic food policy! In the long run, Slow Food Europe is also calling for food production and consumption to be integrated into a holistic inter-ministerial Common Food Policy because the consequences of food production affect all areas – environment, climate, urban and rural development.
European elections are coming soon. Cast your vote!
#foodisPOLITICS #votewithyourfork #thistimeimvoting #EUElections2019 #FutureofEurope
Read the Manifesto of Slow Food Europe, here.
Indre Anskaityte, Slow Food Europe