Fast-and-loose: Historic move as EU rushes to remove environmental safeguards in the CAP despite renewed calls from scientists to accelerate climate action

In a little over a month, the EU has pushed through a major reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) – without any public debate or proper assessment [1] – that disregards scientific evidence [2] and the demands of many farmers [3].

Despite claiming to “support EU farmers, 425 MEPs (33 abstained) voted to remove the requirements for farmers to “respect EU standards on good agricultural and environmental conditions of land (GAEC)” [4] – and receive money from the CAP for doing so. This goes directly against the pleas of many farmers who have made it clear that the “simplification rules will ultimately only exacerbate discontent in the farming community as they neither support farmers in increasing their resilience nor do they address the real issues that farmers face, which is the lack of fair prices for their products and lack of a decent income”. 

Faustine Bas-Defossez, EEB’s Director for Nature, Health and Environment, said: “When rules that took years of stakeholder engagement, risk assessments and debate to create are unravelled so rapidly, serious concerns are raised about the future of EU policymaking.

The changes made today clearly cater to the self-serving interests of agricultural industry, at the expense of everyone else, and have failed to bring any level of fairness for farmers to such a dysfunctional policy. Moreover, it ignores the latest calls from scientists to bolster climate action in agriculture through policies such as the CAP.

Hearing a majority of MEPs applauding after such a vote was a very cynical moment. 

Whilst European policymakers claim loudly that the reform is designed to support farmers, with this vote they have directly rejected [5] the possibility of capping payments and ensuring some level of fairness in a policy where 80% of the money already goes to 20% of the beneficiaries. Policymaking should not be dictated by the whims of a few powerful actors. Moreover, the decision to fast-track the process [6] illustrates the complete lack of respect for basic EU standards of transparency, public participation and evidence-based decision-making.  

This decision brings into question the social acceptability and legitimacy of the CAP. Can EU citizens accept that ≈55 billion EUR/year of their money (around a third of the EU budget) is not only unfairly distributed, but is also put towards maintaining practices that, according to science, are responsible for damaging human and environmental health as well as threatening future food security and Europe’s chances of staying within international climate targets?   

With the EU elections little more than a month away, this vote should act as a wake up call for citizens to go and vote. Only by voting for those who stand for democracy, adhere to science, and protect the future of EU agriculture and citizen’s health, will the Parliament of tomorrow be up to the challenges we are all facing.  


Notes for editors 

[1] Tweet on X by Green MEP Benoît Biteau pointing to the “The unraveling of [the CAP]” “done on the sly”  

[2] EEA EU climate risk assessment 

[3] “Open letter: CAP Simplification Rules – we were consulted but not heard” from ECVC and IFOAM Organics Europe to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen 

[4] Explanation on the GAEC 

[5] 392 MEPs voted against an amendment tabled by the Greens/EFA that would have supported farmers by setting a cap on payments, thus ensuring a fairer distribution of the budget. Currently 80% of the money goes to just 20% of the beneficiaries, resulting in a deeply flawed policy which favours the largest and wealthiest farms over the most vulnerable. By voting against this amendment, MEPs have made it clear who they are protecting.

[6] EEB Press Release following vote on the urgency procedure.  

EEB Press Release following the release of the EU Commission “Memo on the package of support to EU farmers” 

Photo: Burnt olive trees in Catalonia following the 2021 wildfires. Credit: ShaharKlein

Fast-and-loose: Historic move as EU rushes to remove environmental safeguards in the CAP despite renewed calls from scientists to accelerate climate action
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