The EU needs an ambitious and science-backed strategy to halt and reverse biodiversity loss that will safeguard the environmental but also economic sustainability of EU farms and forests.
Biodiversity is essential to guarantee sustainable and resilient EU food systems and food security in the long-term. To this end, the EU needs a new ambitious strategy, backed by scientific consensus and based on environmental, but also social and economic sustainability, the Agriculture Committee said on Thursday in its opinion for the lead Environment Committee on the EU Biodiversity strategy for 2030. The common agricultural policy (CAP) plays a key role in protecting farmland biodiversity, MEPs say. They want farming and forest sectors to be included in the debate on biodiversity conservation and insist on providing incentives to protect biodiversity.
Evaluating impact of the strategy on EU farming and food security
New measures and targets must stem from an impact assessment and a comprehensive science- and evidence-based evaluation of their effects across the EU, MEPs say. They want to check their cumulative impact on the social and economic sustainability of EU farming, forestry, rural areas and food security and assess the potential risks of displacing biodiversity losses to non-EU countries by replacing local production with imports.
Sustainable use of pesticides and compensation for protection measures
Farmers need a bigger toolbox of alternative, effective, affordable and environmentally-safe crop protection solutions should they further reduce their use of chemical pesticides, MEPs say. They want the Commission to improve existing rules to speed up the adoption of new alternative plant protection products with a lower environmental impact and call for adequate incentives and compensation for those who take up sustainable plant protection practices. In response to the Commission’s proposal to increase strictly protected areas, MEPs insist that farmers should be allowed to carry out activities that are in line with protection goals or even positively contribute to biodiversity. They also encourage member states to compensate farmers for designated protected and strictly protected areas under Natura 2000 and for increased production costs due to protection and conservation measures.
Preserving genetic diversity
Enhancing and preserving genetic variability is crucial to promoting diversity, says the adopted text. MEPs call on the Commission to promote changes in the EU vegetative propagation regulations that encourage “on farm” conservation of genetic variability in the traditional European varieties. They also want member states to better protect native and indigenous EU animal breeds and prevent the loss of this biodiversity.
Better protection of pollinators
MEPs want national authorities to control the use of substances that are harmful to pollinators more strictly to tackle their high mortality all across the EU. Support under the future CAP must not weaken pollination services, MEPs stress as they call on member states to include measures targeting various groups of pollinators in their CAP strategic plans.
Promoting biodiversity in EU farming
MEPs call again on member states to use CAP strategic plans to encourage farmers to set aside at least 10% of their land for areas beneficial for biodiversity for example, hedgerows, buffer strips, non-use of chemicals areas, and temporarily fallow land. They also want the Commission to promote environmentally-friendly production methods, which optimise the use of natural resources, protect soil, water and air and promote biodiversity. The strategy should help farmers manage nutrients more efficiently, including through innovative technologies and solutions, and EU states should include measures to this end in their national strategic plans, MEPs say. They also want the Commission and member states to support further research in soil ecosystem services and to boost support for efficient irrigation systems and sustainable water management.
Resilient, healthy and viable EU forests
Biodiversity protection must go hand in hand with the thriving forest-based sector and sustainable bio-economy, MEPs say. They call on member states to do more to tackle illegal logging and loss of biodiversity and to better protect primary forests.
Sustainable trade agreements
All EU trade agreements should promote biodiversity and imports should comply with EU sustainability standards, as applied by EU farmers, MEPs say. They also insist on halting imports of agricultural products resulting from deforestation.
“Agriculture has an important role to play in preserving and promoting biodiversity and I welcome the ambition of the strategy, which encourages action at all levels. Farmers need to be included and heard in the implementation of the measures and the social dimension must be part of the solution”, said rapporteur Isabel Carvalhais (S&D, PT).