A dead-end system
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.
Moreover, the very survival of farming communities in Europe is equally threatened by industrial agriculture. Over the past ten years, on average, one farm had to give up business every 3 minutes! True to the motto “Grow or Die”, more and more land is being managed by an ever-smaller number of businesses, focussing on yields and sales rather than on quality. Conversely, small-scale farms are struggling to survive. With their disappearance, Europe’s rural areas lose jobs and their cultural heritage.
But a different agricultural model is possible!
The solution is an agriculture that is able to thrive without toxic chemicals; an agriculture that by relying on biodiversity- and climate-friendly farming methods will ensure the adequate nutrition of people not only today but also in the future; an agriculture that preserves the invaluable diversity of natural environments, food and rural traditions in Europe.
Our European Citizens’ Initiative demands an agricultural policy that saves bees and farmers. If we collect at least a million signatures, the European Commission and the European Parliament will be obliged to address our demands. Please help us reach this goal: every signature counts.
Why this initiative?
Mankind faces the greatest challenge in its history. With the world climate changing at an alarming pace and the unprecedented loss of biodiversity we face, the world's food supply and ultimately the survival of our species are at stake. This disturbing finding was recently reached independently by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, February 2019 (PDF document)), the World Biodiversity Council (IPBES, May 2019) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, August 2019 (PDF document)). Scientists have left no doubt that the lead causes of this global crisis are man-made and that their solution requires rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society. These include a radical shift in global energy production to renewable energy sources and a fundamental transformation of land use, especially in the way we produce our food.
In view of this urgency, the European Citizens' Initiative "Save Bees and Farmers" wants to become a catalyst for the transformation of agriculture, towards a model that is based on agro-ecological principles and that therefore promotes biodiversity. Such an agricultural model preserves natural resources, prevents soil degradation, builds up soil fertility and thus contributes to climate protection by absorbing more greenhouse gases from the atmosphere than it releases. Such an agricultural model is the only possible response to the growing challenges posed by the biodiversity and climate crises, and is therefore also best suited to securing the world's food supply for future generations.
Phasing-out synthetic pesticides is therefore the basic prerequisite and strongest lever for the transition from the current input-intensive agricultural model to a biodiversity-enhancing model based on natural cycles. Phasing out pesticides in 15 years represents an ambitious challenge. The transition of our agricultural model towards agroecology represents a challenge to all stakeholders, especially farmers, but with strong political will, the transition is at reach. Indeed, the opportunity for a slower change has been lost long ago. In 2008, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), initiated by the World Bank, urgently warned (PDF document) - in view of alarming forecasts on the global state of climate and biodiversity - that "business as usual is not an option“ (PDF document). Among scientists‘ recommendations were the switch to cultivation methods with low external input, the promotion and further development of agro-ecological methods, the biological replacement of agrochemicals, and investments in plant breeding for better temperature and pest resistance.
Unfortunately, these recommendations went largely unheard. Business as usual remained the mainstream global agricultural policy, while the window of opportunity for putting in place measures to prevent further ecological collapse became ever-smaller. Today, we have to acknowledge that our generation is the last to have the power to take effective action to halt species’ extinction and climate change. Whether we do this or not will determine whether the planet that has enabled the development of our civilisation will offer the same living conditions to future generations. It is our responsibility to ensure this. With the European Citizens' Initiative "Save Bees and Farmers" we want to contribute to solving the current crisis.