European Citizens’ Initiative “Save Bees and Farmers!”
By 2030 the use of synthetic pesticides shall be gradually reduced by 80 percent in EU agriculture. By 2035, agriculture in the entire Union shall be working without synthetic pesticides.
Habitats shall be restored and agricultural areas shall become a vector of biodiversity recovery.
Farmers must be supported in the necessary transition towards agroecology. Small, diverse and sustainable farms shall be favoured, organic farming expanded, and research into pesticide-free and GMO-free agriculture will be supported.
European agriculture is reaching a dead end. Agricultural policies that were one-sidedly geared towards increasing yields by increasing the use of toxic agrochemicals have brought the ecosystem to the brink of collapse. Day by day, the biological diversity that underpins our food systems is disappearing – putting the future of our food, livelihoods, health and environment under severe threat.
The consequences for nature are disastrous: bees, butterflies and other insects are vanishing from our landscapes and previously widespread birds have stopped singing in our fields. Our streams and rivers are being polluted and we are exposed to a daily cocktail of synthetic pesticides through our food.
Frequently asked questions
A European Citizens' Initiative is different from a "normal" petition: it is an official democratic instrument that enables EU citizens to help shape Europe by asking the European Commission to propose a legislative act. If we manage to collect one million (validated) signatures, the EU Commission will be legally obliged to deal with our demands.
We have no control over what data is required for the signing of a European Citizens' Initiative by the member states. The respective EU member states determine which data must be collected, so that the signatures are valid and counted. For this reason, in an ECI it is necessary to give more personal data than you are used to from other "petitions". However, all data collected in "Step 2" of our action will not be passed on to us - instead, it is forwarded directly to a secure server located in Germany, using a specially certified software (OpenECI), so that the responsible national authorities can verify the validity of your vote. This is necessary because an ECI is an official EU instrument, so whether the signatures actually come from citizens of an EU member state has to be checked. Your personal data will be permanently deleted after official verification by the national authorities. We would be pleased if you could complete step 2 of our action on the basis of these explanations. Only then you will have signed the ECI and your signature can be counted.
There are many possibilities. You can support the ECI:
Your data will of course be transmitted securely and encrypted. All data collected -when signing the ECI in "Step 2" - with the software certified by the European Commission (OpenECI) goes directly to a secure server. It will not be sent to us and for this reason it is not possible to send you a confirmation of your participation. Only the competent national authorities can inspect the votes for random verification of their validity. This is necessary because an ECI is an official EU instrument. Your personal data will be permanently deleted after official verification by the national authorities.
Yes, sign again if you're unsure. Your signature is valid and is counted only once. The software automatically detects double signatures and sorts out duplicates.
In the case of the online signature:
If this does not work, the only solution is:
Depending on the data required by these member states, you may have the possibility to choose between signing for your nationality or your living country, bearing in mind that you can sign up only once for the initiative “Save Bees and Farmers”.
The data which you provide in your signature will determine in which member state your signature will be counted.
Example: An Austrian living in Estonia can either ...
... fill in the form for Estonia, providing his/her full first names, family names, address, date and place of birth and nationality - in this case, his/her signature will be verified and therefore counted in Estonia
... or fill in the form for Austria, providing in addition to the above data a personal identification document number from the list accepted by Austria – in this case, his/her signature will be verified and therefore counted in Austria.
This depends on the member state of which you are national. Depending on the requirements asked by the member states, you may or may not be able to sign up online. This is due to the fact that some member states require an EU address.
For those who will have the possibility to sign up, your vote will be counted in your member state of nationality.
For those who cannot sign online, then you can print the paper form, fill it in with your nationality and address and send it back.
When a farmer decides to become a certified organic farmer, it takes three years in order for his land and harvests to receive the organic label, meaning no synthetic pesticide was used throughout the production process. Such a transformation is knowledge-intensive and requires training and adaptation on the farmer’s side. We therefore consider that 15 years is a sufficient period of time to train farmers to adopt pesticide-free practices. 15 years would allow for a smooth transition period but with clear objectives.
Furthermore, we have already gambled away the opportunity for less ambitious changes and for a slower agricultural conversion. As early as 2008, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), initiated by the World Bank, urgently warned in its final report: "Business as usual is not an option“. But the IAASTD‘s warning was not followed by corresponding action. As a result, ten valuable years for the transformation of agriculture were lost until the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in May 2019 presented its Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, which strongly reiterated the warning that "business as usual is not an option“. A few months later, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presented its report on the link between land use and greenhouse gas emissions. Both UN bodies, IPBES and IPCC, warned urgently that the window of opportunity for taking measures to avert the imminent collapse of the world's climate and ecosystems would be closing very soon.
Since past decision-makers did not “hear” the message and failed to act, we simply cannot wait any longer. Our generation is the last to still have the power to take effective action to halt biodiversity loss and climate change. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if we do not act now, we risk passing the point of no return in ten years' time.
Indeed, there are many factors that contribute to species‘ extinction. The Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) 2019 report has made this clear. The main causes mentioned are namely land use change, pollution, climate change and the proliferation of invasive species, where land use change and related air, water and soil pollution are caused by agriculture, forestry and urbanisation, with 71% of the total land available being used for agriculture and forestry.
The use of synthetic pesticides is a two-fold driver of species‘ extinction: an immediate harmful effect of pesticide use results from pesticides‘ toxicity to insects, birds, amphibians, as well as soil and aquatic organisms. In addition, pesticides have enabled a model of intensive farming that heavily relies on intensive monocultures which leave no room for the existence of species diversity (agrobiodiversity). In other words, the continuous intensification of chemical pest control since the 1960s has made the use and consideration of natural biological mechanisms for pest control - such as the provision of habitats and ecological niches for beneficial insects, or the use of resistant crop varieties - seem obsolete, while the provisions listed above are key to pesticide-free agriculture. In order to restore these natural ecosystems and to enable species diversity in agricultural land, it is indispensable to implement pesticide-free practices in our agricultural system. Fortunately, evidence shows that biodiversity recovery can happen relatively quickly when measures are taken to restore habitats in parallel to abandoning the use of synthetic pesticides.
No, this image is very often raised by the pesticide industry to frighten farmers and citizens. The fact that a future biodiversity-compatible agriculture can do without synthetic pesticides does not mean that it should not take advantage of the incredible amount of scientific knowledge and technological innovations that are available today.
As the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report already stated in 2008, the decisive factor in combating hunger globally is not the maximisation of productivity, but the availability of food and its means of production locally. The best guarantees for this are smallholder structures with their ecological and social benefits.
Recent technological developments, such as the switch from heavy machines to light, energy-autonomous, self-driving agricultural robots, are promising. Such technological advances could, for example, enable mechanical weed monitoring to ensure a controlled balance between crops and other plants, thus maintaining an ecological diversity of beneficial insects to contain pests within the crop.
Contrary to messages by the pesticide industry or spokespersons from major farmers‘ unions, there is a wide diversity of thought among the farming community. While large farmer associations have so far persistently defended the agro-industrial system and consistently combated pesticide restrictions, a growing number of smaller interest groups and farmers see dependence on the agro-industry (synthetic pesticides, seeds and fertilizers producers) and its products as a driving force behind the crisis into which farms and the ecosystem have fallen. For us organisers of the citizens' initiative, it will therefore be decisive whether we succeed in showing the prospects for change and convincing farmers not only that agriculture without pesticides is possible, but also that in the long term it is the best option. We therefore want to use the coming year not only to collect signatures for our citizens' initiative but also to enter into dialogue with farmers and their representative bodies.
The highest price we can ever pay for our food is the devastation of our livelihoods and the livelihoods of our children and grandchildren. But it is precisely this price that we are currently paying worldwide when we buy unsustainably produced, cheap food. Our current way of farming threatens the world's food supply, as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stated in a comprehensive report on the state of agriculture and biodiversity in February 2019. The reason why we still buy food at this low price is that the real price does not appear at the supermarket checkout. We pay it through burning forests, polluting water, eroding soil, contaminating the air we breath and finding chemical residues in our food. Pesticides, as well as low-quality food, have important health impacts that involve important societal costs (cancers, Parkinson diseases, reproductive impairment, etc).
We must therefore put an end to this disastrous system. Farmers that produce food sustainably should be rewarded, while imported food produced with synthetic pesticides should be heavily taxed. Furthermore, farmers generally do not earn a decent living in the EU despite the fact they are caring for producing the food that is at the very basis of our health. Decision-makers shall ensure that farmers earn decent revenues, while maintaining food at affordable prices.
In fact, that is one of our demands! In the Annex to our ECI we state that accompanying measures are necessary to ensure that pesticide-free food produced in Europe does not become subject to competition from cheap food from third countries produced using pesticides.
This can be guaranteed in a diversity of ways, either by a general ban on food that is not certified as produced without synthetic pesticides, or even a correspondingly high taxation and/or the subsidisation of European products that have been produced in a biodiversity-friendly way. It is clear that such measures are indispensable for the protection of European agriculture. At the same time, it is to be expected that such a trade policy can send out positive steering effects for a system change in other parts of the world. However, as this affects international trade agreements, and these cannot be subject to ECIs, this demand is (only) listed in the ECI Annex, and therefore does not formally belong to its central demands. But one thing is clear to us: we will all have to deal with this political question, because transformation can only happen if unfair competition from products that do not meet similar ecological standards can be excluded.
An answer to the question of how to feed a world population that will have grown to a projected 9 billion by 2050 was provided about ten years ago by the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). Its key recommendations included improving agro-ecological and low-input farming methods, plant breeding for better climate, temperature and pest resistance, as well as compensation for environmental services and reducing dependency on fossil fuels. What you will not find in the report, however, are recommendations to use pesticides in order to secure the world's food supply. On the contrary, the IAASTD recommends the replacement of agrochemicals by biocontrol. The claim that pesticides are necessary to secure the world's food supply is therefore nothing more than the narrative of large agrochemical groups, which earn billions of euros from the sale of pesticides. There is no scientific evidence to support such claim, it is just a myth.
Over the last decades, the development of organic farming and the implementation of agroecology has clearly proven that farming without pesticides is a very real option. It is knowledge-intensive and requires adaptation from farmers.
It is important to advise and support farmers in their transition. To achieve this, the necessary economic framework conditions must be created.
In some cases, further research on agro-ecological methods must also be promoted through public resources released by the renunciation of investments in agrichemicals.
Over the past decades, billions of euros of public and private funds have been invested in the development, manufacturing and regulation of synthetic pesticides and in countering the negative environmental and health effects they have caused. In the future, public resources ought to fund research in agroecology to improve production while respecting the environment. Research results must then quickly reach farmers and help them to improve their practices.
In view of climate change, abandoning the agricultural model based on intensive agrochemicals use is key for the future of our production. Climate change will confront agriculture with unprecedented weather extremes and increased pest pressure. It is precisely in view of these challenges that it is all the more important to ensure the necessary resilience through agroecosystems that are as strong and resilient as possible with a corresponding species diversity. For instance, agroecological production methods are less susceptible to droughts as soils with high rates of carbon store more water. They also support humus formation in the soil and remove CO2 from the atmosphere. This is particularly important because in order to meet the IPCC's 1.5 degree target, it will be necessary for CO2 emissions from food production to become negative worldwide. This means more CO2 from the atmosphere going into the soil and contributing to humus formation, than is emitted in total by agricultural processes (this performance could be compensated, for example, by remuneration).
The United Nations’ IAASTD report already stated that „green genetic engineering“ has so far created more problems than solutions and has one-sidedly directed research interest towards patentable products.
The vast majority of GMO varieties that are sold today are either resistant to a pesticide, and thus lead to more pesticide use in the field, or they are genetically modified to produce pesticides themselves and thus put ecosystems in danger! Our citizens' initiative for the protection of biodiversity and smallholder farms explicitly calls for the promotion of independent, rural training and research in the field of pesticide- and GM-free agriculture. It is undisputed, therefore, that the breeding and selection of seeds should be promoted and expanded using conventional breeding techniques.
We are a wide alliance of NGOs, agricultural initiatives, grassroots movements, beekeeping associations and scientists.
Our aim is to obtain a paradigm shift in European agriculture, so that it becomes a model that meets the needs of the environment, farmers and citizens alike. Together, we want to collect at least a million signatures for the European Citizens’ Initiative “Save bees and farmers!”. The initiative is coordinated by the organisations listed below.
Members of the Circle of Organizers: