Resolution accepted at the EGP Spring Council, May 11-13, 2012
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Introduction: the solution lies outside of the box
Since the beginning of the 21st century, we have been witnessing multiple crises; economic, social, environmental and ideological. The deepening of social inequalities, the depletion of natural resources, the ongoing problems with poverty and hunger and more broadly the increasing societal unease with the fast pace of globalisation, are only a few illustrations revealing the fundamental flaws in our current societal model. The Green New Deal (GND) is a comprehensive response to these crises.
It aims to reconcile our lifestyles - the way we live, produce and consume - with the physical limits of our planet. It is a transformational journey consisting of sweeping, interlinked reforms at all levels and all sectors. Agriculture is at the crossroads of the challenges which the GND aims to tackle and at the heart of the ecological transformation our societies need to undergo. “Climate change, hunger and poverty, loss of biodiversity, forest destruction, water crises, food safety – what all these threats have in common is that a principal cause for each of them is the way we produce, trade, consume and discard food and other agricultural products1”. By its nature, agriculture is the activity par excellence at the service of the people and the planet, as it meets one of humankind’s most basic needs, i.e. food, and manages a significant share of our planet's natural resources.
The biggest challenge ahead for farmers in Europe and beyond is to provide sufficient and safe food in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner. Future agriculture will also have to play a pivotal role in sustainably managing the world’s biomass stocks while providing us with a way out of our fossil-based economy. To take up these challenges, we will have to reverse the currently dominant trend of industrialisation and intensification that has driven too many farmers out of business while causing unprecedented environmental degradation. This is the reason why the European Greens are pushing for a paradigm shift in the agricultural sector: towards sustainable agriculture as the rule2.
We will also need to overcome the current innovation lock-in and encourage "out-of-the box" thinking. This means being creative enough to move away from the mainstream path of industrial farming and GMOs, towards a "neo-traditional food system"3. Indeed, the innovation and research bias we are currently facing has massively favoured bio-genetic research in agriculture, at the
expense of research in other agricultural approaches such as agro-ecology, despite its proven multiple benefits4. Examples of innovative solutions go from biomimetics (the imitation of nature by humans) to permaculture, agro-ecology, urban farming, agro-forestry and other win-win partnerships that couple the sustainable production of food and the preservation of ecosystems and biodiversity. Our understanding of innovation goes beyond its technological dimension; it's about imagining new ways of producing and consuming, new economic opportunities for farmers and rural actors, new relationships between urban and rural areas. Amongst these new ideas and instruments, we will need a redesigned Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Its upcoming reform provides an unprecedented opportunity to set in motion the transition towards sustainable agriculture everywhere.
This paper will start by (1) outlining some key principles of our model, before (2) detailing our green regulation for agricultural markets, (3) defining our understanding of sustainability, (4) calling for a revival of rural areas in Europe, (5) outlining the holistic nature of our model, going beyond food production and finally (6) presenting our critique of the current CAP reform proposals, as well as our alternatives.
1.The right to food: beyond the rhetoric on food security
The food crisis of 2007-2008 and the presence of one billion hungry people around the world (Foresight Report, 20105) have put food security back on the agenda, but the current rhetoric around this issue is misleading. There are a lot of misconceptions around food security targets (e.g. “Europe needs to feed the world”, “we need to double (or more) production by 2050”, etc.) and the ways to achieve them (e.g. industrial & intensive farming as the only option). Food insecurity is indeed a real threat, not because of insufficient land and other agricultural resources but because of poverty and unsustainable, inefficient and wasteful food production, distribution and consumption. Around one third of global food production is wasted along the food chain (FAO, 2011)6, an increasing share of arable land is used for the unsustainable production of agro-fuels, productivity gains are decreasing because of soil erosion and there is a huge nutritional inequality between the developed and developing world. Therefore, sustainability must be at the heart of the right to food, i.e. access to safe, wholesome and affordable food for all, a right at the very basis of food democracy and our vision for future farming.
To meet current and future demand for food, combat hunger and malnutrition in a sustainable manner, we Greens, call for:
•Promoting the agro-ecology approach
Defined as the application of ecological science to the study, design and management of sustainable agriculture, this approach has been identified by O. de Schutter7 and the IAASTD report as bearing a great potential to meet the food security challenge sustainably (especially in comparison to business as usual, i.e. further industrial intensification).
•Striking a balance between food, energy and environmental security
The current policies on agro-fuels - misleadingly called bio-fuels - cannot be part of our GND agricultural model as they have proven to have a dramatic impact on the environment (e.g. through indirect land use change causing unprecedented deforestation). They have also exacerbated the competition between food, fuel and feed and have, in some cases, caused displacements of farming communities or inhibited the entry of young farmers by driving land prices up. Rather than agro- fuels, investments should be directed towards energy saving farm systems, and the sustainable production of renewable energy to reduce our fossil-fuel dependency. In this context, using agricultural by-products for the sustainable production of agro-fuels and energy could also be part of the solution, providing that it doesn’t promote factory farming.
•Implementing fiscal instruments to ensure sound waste management
Food waste is one of the main issues we need to tackle in this context, so it needs to be drastically reduced all along the food chain, e.g. through fiscal incentives encouraging the recycling of products, sanctioning waste, or re-using it for the sustainable production of renewable energy.
•Strengthening local production and improving access to local markets
Efforts should be made in Europe to avoid global intensification under cover of contributing to food security objectives. Instead we should support small farmers around the world (e.g. through improvements of local and regional infrastructure, better targeted extension services, etc.) as they hold the keys to a sustainable agricultural future and the access to food for all. The majority of food worldwide is produced and harvested by 2.5. billion small farmers8.
2. A green regulation for agricultural markets: away from the current neo- liberal model
2.1. Fair trade solutions to free trade problems9
Under the pressure of the WTO's liberalisation agenda, the current regulation of European agricultural markets neither encourages sustainable food production nor ensures decent, stable and fair revenue to farmers. The current WTO rules have indeed a direct impact on the type of agricultural model we can promote in Europe; they restrict our room for manoeuvre by favouring an export-oriented agriculture and are not compatible with the paradigm shift we are calling for. Reforming the WTO - a relatively recent framework in the history of trade - is possible and we should be the active force behind this transformation. We believe that people and governments should have the right to reject agricultural policies which destroy their own markets and production capacities: they have the right to oppose ecological, economical or social forms of dumping and to develop their own sustainable food systems10.
We therefore oppose the current set of WTO rules, as it still allows for dumping practices to take place (even though export subsidies are formally being phased out, other forms of disguised dumping are still common practice, e.g. the current CAP direct payments), and it disproportionally favours corporate interests. International exchanges in the field of agriculture should always contribute to the development of local agricultural markets, i.e. fair trade.
•Local market development
We support neither the current terms of the Doha Round (and its deadlock proves the unbalanced character of these negotiations), nor the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) which are being negotiated between the EU and other parts of the world, as they are strongly biased towards European corporate interests, instead of the farmers’. Agriculture should stop being used as a bargaining chip in trade negotiations. We Greens favour a multilateral trading system over bilateral trade agreements since in bilateral agreements developing countries have even less bargaining power. Our priority is the development of well-functioning local, national and regional markets. We are not in favour of an excessively export-oriented agriculture. Indeed, instead of pushing developing countries to open their markets, the EU should foster regional trade ("south-south- trade") and the development of local economies to reach a certain degree of self-sufficiency at the local, regional, national or continental level. At the same time, it should not allow products to be exported below the European cost of production. Overall, we also strongly insist on keeping a global vision in mind, to avoid the emergence of a "two-speed" agriculture: one small, well- organised at the local and regional levels and one big, industrialised at the global level. Indeed, the second grows to the detriment of the first; it takes the land and implies a fundamentally different agricultural system.
•Qualified Market Access
Restricting imports to the products complying with our environmental and social sustainability criteria is also key to our vision for agricultural trade11, provided that it foresees appropriate exemptions for the less developed countries. In this context, banning imports of GM products would contribute to our goal of creating a “GM-free zone”.
2.2. Ensuring true prices, sustainable supply management and banning speculation on food
Within a reformed set of rules at the international level, our green regulation for European agricultural markets should pursue the following aims: correct market failures and make transparent prices reflect the true costs of sustainable production (which is not currently the case), ensure sound supply management to avoid surpluses and price volatility, and ban speculation on food commodities. Reaching these objectives would enable farmers to get a fairer return from their production, thereby reducing their dependency on subsidies and encouraging them to move towards sustainability as the rule.
2.2.1. Ensuring true prices:
•Integrating all positive and negative externalities: Implementing fiscal instruments which would compensate society for the cost of pollution and recovery, e.g. taxation policies and environmental standards on pesticides and fertilisers, waste, water and air pollution, energy, etc. This amounts to applying the polluter pays principle12, which strives for a “no net-damage” objective. We should also incentivise sustainable behaviour, e.g. through fiscal exemptions for sustainable farming practices. This would make the prices reflect the true costs of sustainable production and correct today’s market failures which leave the negative externalities unsanctioned and the positive externalities unrewarded. If all externalities were accounted for in food prices, organic farmers for example would be far more competitive in the market place, than is currently the case.
"Farming must include, not exclude, the stewardship of natural resources, cover the real costs of production and therefore provide decent work and income13".
•True prices are also transparent prices:
Implementing new mechanisms to ensure market transparency, e.g. improving the European food price monitoring tool, making the top European traders, processors, wholesalers and retailers report on their market shares and margins. This transparency objective has even become a G20 priority, as illustrated in the G20 Action Plan on Food Price Volatility and Agriculture14 and the creation of AMIS (Agriculture Market Information System)15.