BirdLife: The Magazine Jan-Mar 2018 - Page 9

r e f o r m the public’s responsibility extends beyond their shopping habits Reflecting its importance, agriculture is one of the few policy fields where decisions are made centrally in Brussels, and it is also the largest EU policy (more than 40% of the EU budget, approximately €55 billion per year). What do these vast resources go towards? The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was set up after World War II, to a backdrop of hunger and unstable production in Europe; it served to boost food availability and stabilise prices for farmers and consumers. Ever since, the CAP has continued incentivising intensive models of farming that have created a different set of problems. We have in place a system that pollutes our soil, water and air and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. “There is little guarantee that what we buy is actually sustainable” Jan-Mar 2018 • birdlife A recent study (the CAP Fitness Check), performed by independent researchers, confirms that sustainability under the CAP is unlikely to be achieved under the current framework. The conclusion? The official policy instruments intended to ensure environmental sustainability are not only under-funded, but also too contradictory with other CAP measures to be fit for purpose. So, as much as we would like to consider ourselves responsible EU citizens, capable of making the right shopping choices, there is little guarantee that what we purchase is actually sustainable, as most of the food that is available comes at the price of external costs, such as the environment and public health. The current EU framework does not suffice for a transition to more sustainable food systems. But do we give up on advocating for public policy? No. With the right policies, agriculture can be biodiversity friendly, and environmentally and socially sustainable. We need to shout louder to ensure our elected decision makers know how much of a societal priority this is. Yes, complex as it can be, public policy matters. It can encourage one behaviour over another, and disincentivise particular actions. We must continue sending the message to decision-makers that the expenditure of our public resources has to ensure the delivery of public goods. We are facing a unique moment in history that we need to seize before is too late: the CAP is facing a new round of reform, and we are more organised than ever before. Earlier this year 258,708 citizens and 600 civil society organisations and businesses (including from the food sector) told the Commission that the time has come for a major overhaul of the CAP. The mobilisation was generated by Living Land, the online campaign launched by BirdLife, WWF and the European Environmental Bureau, calling for an EU agricultural policy that protects our climate and environment, and contributes to healthy, ethical and sustainable food production. Inés Jordana Senior Agriculture and Food Policy Officer, SEO We are consumers, yes, but we are citizens first. It is true that a single policy cannot solve all the challenges we are facing, and consciousness choices can drive the market into a different path. But it’s not an “either/or” situation. Alongside Fairtrade coffee and sustainable cotton, the right policies should also be in our shopping basket. Farming supplies us with food, wildlife habitats and attractive landscapes – yet agriculture also drives biodiversity loss through water pollution and soil degradation. To give some figures, the EU bird index shows a decline of farmland birds by 50% in Europe since the 1980s, a tendency that is also true for butterflies, bees, plants and many other groups. 9