Policy paper adopted during the EGP Spring Council 2012 in Copenhagen
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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.