More than 2,500 scientists across the EU have joined forces and reached out to the EU parliament in a letter urging them to “to act on the science, and undertake a far-reaching reform of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) without delay.”
The letter, sent to the Committee of Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) and the Committee of Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI), states that there is an “unequivocal scientific consensus” between the intensification of agriculture and the ever-increasing loss of biodiversity. It outlines the harmful effects that the intensive agriculture model, supported by the current CAP, has on biodiversity, asserting that much of this damage could soon be “irreversible”.
CAP subsidies currently account for nearly €60 billion every year, much of which funds intensive and factory farming. The letter states that this money could instead be used for the recovery of biodiversity and rural human population. It asserts that the EU must be a “pioneer in responding to these challenges” and the CAP must be part of that response, rather than continuing to contribute to environmental degradation.
However, whilst there is a clear consensus about the damaging effects of industrial agriculture on the environment and the need for CAP reform, what is less clear is what that means in practice.
Many stakeholders, including the agri-food industry and farmers’ associations, suggest that one way this could be achieved is with digital farming practices based on the principle “producing more with less [input]”, through the use of new technologies such as remote sensors, satellites, and drones.
However, despite the potential of such new technologies in combating some of our most pressing agricultural issues, enthusiasm for digital technology has been lacklustre in some quarters and the adoption of such technologies in the EU has been slow.
Last March, the EU manufacturers of agricultural machinery (CEMA) called on member states to indicate a “clear commitment” to the digitisation of European agriculture in terms of CAP as the only way to face the current environmental and economic challenges.