Amid the Covid-19 crisis, European civil society rises to protect public health and the environment from pesticides
Amid the Covid-19 crisis, European civil society rises to protect public health and the environment from pesticides while restoring biodiversity and supporting small scale farmers
Brussels, Wednesday 29th April 2020 - While EU Member States struggle with the Covid-19 crisis, agribusiness is taking advantage of the situation by acting to significantly water-down von der Leyen's European Green Deal. The European civil society, gathered under the Save Bees and Farmers European Citizens Initiative, asks the European Commission to maintain ambitious objectives to protect peoples' health, the environment and support the transition of European agriculture towards agroecology.
Today, 29th April, the European Commission was meant to publish its EU food policy (Farm to Fork) and its environmental policy (Biodiversity strategy). These policy documents were meant to set, for the first time, ambitious and mandatory targets in the EU in both policy areas. However, these have been postponed for the second time with the new potential deadline on 20th May. Meanwhile, leaked documents have shown that the initial ambitious objective to render pesticide use reductions mandatory in Member States has been eroded over time, and that the risk of ending up with weak policy documents is highly significant as it could severely undermine ambitions to make EU food and farming more sustainable, as well as in terms of the so-called "green recovery" post Covid-19.
The development of both documents was presented in the frame of the European Green Deal disclosure in December 2019 by newly-elected president Ursula von der Leyen. Such an ambitious plan to protect climate, the environment and future generations is an unprecedented move on the European Commission’s part, and has been widely supported by civil society organisations.
The initiative triggered an important behind-the-scenes reaction from the agribusiness industry to undermine the European executive’s ambitions. The conventional agriculture sector and agrochemical corporations were helped both by conservative parties in the European Parliament as well as by key public servants in the European Commission.
While the European Green Deal emerged as a response to the many recent calls and reports from scientists in the areas of biodiversity and climate change, it was also a response to the spring 2019 European elections’ “green wave”, where green parties increased their seats in many Member States. There is an important risk here that corporatism and financial interest might manage to muzzle democratic progresses.
Today, as members of the "Save Bees and Farmers!" European Citizens' Initiative  we demand that the European Commission stick to publishing strong Farm to Fork and Biodiversity policies. We have collected over 320.000 signatures across the EU and will keep collecting support from citizens to phase out the use of synthetic pesticides in the EU, restore biodiversity in agricultural areas and make use of the Common Agricultural Policy subsidies to set EU agriculture on the path towards agroecology. The Covid-19 crisis has shown, once again, the vulnerability of globalised agriculture and food systems and agroecology is the only way forward to re-localise our productions while respecting peoples' health and the environment.