News

2017-06-13 |

Cities are powerful agents in addressing food system challenges, IPES report

Frnsico Urban farming in San Francisco (Photo: SPUR, Sergio Ruiz, bit.ly/4_CC_BY_2-0, bit.ly/SRuiz)

Cities around the world play an increasingly important role in addressing food system challenges by adopting policies that bring about change. This is the message of a new report from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), published on June 12th. The report presents an analysis of the innovative and diverse ways in which five cities – Belo Horizonte, Nairobi, Amsterdam, a Canadian city region and Detroit – developed urban food policies. “Cities are taking matters into their own hands to try to fix the food system,” said lead author Corinna Hawkes, Director of the Centre for Food Policy at City University London. “Hundreds of cities around the world are taking concerted policy action – whether it be to ensure access to decent, nutritious food for all, to support farm livelihoods or to mitigate climate change.”

According to the report, the city of Belo Horizonte is renowned worldwide as a pioneer in city-level policy to address food insecurity. In 1992, it established a dedicated food agency within city government, the Secretariat for Food and Nutrition Security (SMASAN) and put in place an integrated set of policies and programmes that amount to a state-led alternative food system to ensure access to quality, nutritious and safe food for everyone. Belo Horizonte’s approach has survived for 25 years. The case study of Nairobi stands for a U-turn of city authorities, from hostility to active promotion and regulation of urban farming. In the late 1970s, Kenya’s capital experienced a massive influx from the countryside. For those poor and food-insecure families, urban agriculture became a means of survival – whether for subsistence or to supplement meagre incomes. However, for decades they were doing so illegally. Nairobi City Council staunchly opposed farming in the city, considering it a threat to public health and land rights. In 2015, city authorities passed the Nairobi Urban Agriculture Promotion and Regulation Act, intended to boost food security by facilitating food production in the city, to promote job creation, value addition and value chain development, to protect food safety and environmental health, and to regulate access to land. Now, the city government is responsible for training farmers, for ensuring their access to organic waste, and for developing marketing infrastructure.

Although the urban food policies portrayed in the report were all developed in different contexts, the authors identified a number of factors that were seen to drive policy forward. “The cities we studied were tremendously innovative when it came to harnessing the factors that drive policy forward, and overcoming the barriers,” said Hawkes. “They found ways of extending budgets to enable full implementation of the policy, institutionalizing policies to help them transcend electoral cycles, and even obtaining new powers if they did not have the authority to develop and deliver the policy they wanted.” The objective of the report is to provide insights into the factors that enable the development and delivery of urban food policies so that others can learn from these lessons. “Sharing these experiences is crucial. Looking at what has been done elsewhere can help cities of all sizes that are working to improve their food systems – from small towns that are taking their first steps in designing food-related policy to big cities that are striving to maintain highly-developed, integrated policies”. (ab)

2017-06-09 |

Cambodia: communities protest against land grab by Chinese sugar companies

Prame Fields and forests are converted into sugarcane plantations (Photo: Prame community)

Land grabs by Chinese sugarcane companies have violated fundamental rights of communities in Cambodia, with devastating impacts on people’s livelihoods and the environment. A new report reveals that tens of thousands of people have been affected by land grabs in the province of Preah Vihear, in which Chinese-owned companies were granted land concessions covering more than 40,000 hectares. The report, published by the non-governmental organisations Community Network in Action, Ponlok Khmer, GRAIN, Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association, and the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact, exposes the dramatic consequences of these land grabs for local communities.

In 2011, five Chinese-owned companies were granted economic land concessions (ELCs) occupying more than 40,000 hectares. According to the report, the firms are all believed to be subsidiaries of a single Chinese state-owned company, Hengfu Group Sugar Industry, in partnership with another (Huada) and were clearly set up to circumvent Cambodian legislation that prohibits a single company from holding more than 10,000 hectares. ELC land concessions are part of the Cambodian government’s efforts to attract investment and to transform small-scale farmer landscapes into agro-industrial ones. The government hopes this will bring about development and increased profits from agriculture. However, the NGOs behind the report warn that this investment comes at a great human and environmental cost, with little recognisable benefit to communities in the concession areas. “Since they started, ELCs have facilitated the transfer of over 2.1 million hectares of land from small farmers and indigenous groups to large scale corporations and agribusiness,” said GRAIN’s Kartini Samon. “The arguments about the productivity and efficiency of large-scale plantations are false. The truth is that it is small farmers who feed countries like Cambodia”, she added.

In the province of Preah Vihear, in northern Cambodia, the sugarcane concessions have destroyed local livelihoods and food production while the companies produce sugar for export. Many families have lost the means to produce food and earn a living as the Chinese companies have converted rice fields, forests, pasture lands, and streams into sugarcane fields. The reports quotes Sophal, a woman from one of the affected villages in Chhep district, who said: “Our livelihoods have significantly been affected by the clearing of the forest, no more forest products can be collected. We lost our time by spending it monitoring the companies who are demolishing our young rice fields. Our rice yields are also reduced because of the lack of land for agriculture, and the cost for local rice has also reduced because the company can also grow rice and sell it at a cheaper price.” Communities also complained about harmful chemicals used on the sugarcane fields flowing into streams they rely on for water. “Instead of stimulating development, ELCs disrupt local and indigenous livelihoods. They destroy biodiversity and natural ecosystems,” said Ang Cheatlom, Executive Director of Ponlok Khmer. The affected communities in Preah Vihear have called for the concessions to be cancelled and the land returned to them. The publishers of the report support this demand, urging the Chinese government to intervene through ist embassy in Cambodia. They also called on the Cambodian government to return the land back to the indigenous communities. (ab)

2017-06-06 |

World needs to shift to more sustainable agriculture and food systems, FAO

Agriculture Agriculture and food systems need to become sustainable (Photo: CC0)

To achieve sustainable development we must transform current agriculture and food systems, including by supporting smallholders and family farmers, reducing pesticide and chemical use, and improving land conservation practices. This was the message delivered by José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to European lawmakers last week. Addressing members of the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, da Silva highlighted the findings of FAO’s recent report “The future of food and agriculture”. “One of the main conclusions of the report is that the agricultural model that resulted from the Green Revolution of the Sixties and Seventies has reached its limits,” he said according to the statement released on FAO’s website. “In fact, high-input and resource-intensive farming systems have substantially increased food production at a high cost to the environment. Massive agriculture intensification is contributing to increase deforestation, water scarcity, soil depletion, and the level of greenhouse gas emissions,” da Silva added, warning that current farming practices would lead to a further degradation of natural resources.

The report, published in December 2016, argued that major transformations in agricultural systems, rural economies and natural resource management will be needed if current challenges for achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture worldwide are to be met. “To achieve sustainable development, we need to transform current agriculture and food systems,” da Silva said. “Business as usual is no longer an option,” he declared, echoing the message of the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD). “The future of agriculture is not input-intensive, but knowledge-intensive. This is a new paradigm,” the FAO chief explained. “We need to implement sustainable agricultural practices that offer nutritious and accessible food, ecosystem services and climate-change resilience at the same time. And this can be done by supporting smallholders and family farmers, reducing the use of pesticides and chemicals, and increasing crop diversification, just to name a few aspects.”

In his address to EU parliamentarians, da Silva focused on four issues: climate change, the spread of transboundary pests and diseases, food loss and waste and the importance of eradicating not only hunger, but all forms of malnutrition. Graziano da Silva cited estimates suggesting that nearly half of the EU’s adult population are overweight. “The way to combat this is to transform food systems, from production to consumption, and provide healthier diets to people,” he said, calling on EU lawmakers to ensure that adequate policies, programmes and operational frameworks are put in place. (ab)

2017-06-02 |

Trump’s climate deal pullout threatens agriculture and global food security

Drought Climate change will affect food security (Photo: CC0)

President Donald Trump announced on Thursday that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate change agreement. In a speech he argued that the climate deal signed by 195 nations in December 2015 was a threat to the economy and American workers. Trump’s decision to pull of the climate agreement is a major setback for international efforts to tackle global warming since the U.S. is the world’s second-largest polluter after China. The decision puts the US alongside Syria and Nicaragua, the only two nations who declined to sign the deal. The move was condemned immediately by politicians and environmental campaigners across the globe. “The nations that remain in the Paris agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created,” said former US President Obama. “I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack.” He is confident that the “states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.”

The Center for Food Safety, a US-based environmental organization, warned that the decision will threaten US agriculture and could result in increased hunger and malnutrition worldwide. “Agriculture is sensitive to fluctuations in temperature and precipitation and the U.S. is not immune to escalating global threats: in 2016 there were 91 weather, climate or geological disasters in the U.S. including severe storms, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, heat waves and droughts many of these damaging or wiping out crops,” the Center for Food Safety wrote in a press release. “The move is completely irresponsible. The President clearly has no understanding of science, and is willfully ignoring the advice of those who do,” said Diana Donlon, Director of Food and Climate at CFS. In East and Southern Africa, more than 38 million people in 17 countries are currently struggling with food insecurity resulting from consecutive drought. In the Arctic, temperature has increased at twice the rate as the rest of the globe which could weaken or shut down global ocean circulation which would obviously have catastrophic impacts on agriculture. “The Trump administration continues its dangerous pattern of placing short-term corporate dollars ahead of literally all else, including public interests as vital as addressing climate change,” said CFS Legal Director George Kimbrell. “We must continue to demand and force urgent action, to protect food security, farmers, and the planet.” (ab)

2017-05-31 |

Africa subsidises the rest of the world by $40 billion a year, new research

Africa The world is extracting wealth from Africa (Photo: CC0)

Many people in Africa remain trapped in poverty, while the continent is subsidising the rest of the world by over $40 billion per year, new research shows. According to the Honest Accounts 2017 report, published by a coalition of British and African organisations, much more wealth is leaving Africa than is entering it. The report found that African countries received $161.6 billion in 2015 – mainly in loans, personal remittances and aid in the form of grants. Yet $203 billion was taken from Africa, either directly – mainly through corporations repatriating profits and by illegally moving money out of the continent – or by costs imposed through climate change. This is creating an annual net financial deficit of over $40 billion. “The African continent is rich, but the rest of the world profits from its wealth through unjust debt payments, multinational company profits and hiding proceeds from tax avoidance and corruption,” said Tim Jones from the Jubilee Debt Campaign.

The research, which covers the 47 countries classified as ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ by the World Bank, calculates the movement of financial resources into and out of Africa and some key costs imposed on Africa by the rest of the world. According to the most recent figures available in 2015, African countries received around $19 billion in aid but over three times that much ($68 billion) was taken out in capital flight, mainly by multinational companies deliberately misreporting the value of their imports or exports to reduce tax. An estimated $29 billion a year is being stolen from Africa in illegal logging, fishing and the trade in wildlife/plants. “Money is leaving Africa partly because Africa’s wealth of natural resources is simply owned and exploited by foreign, private corporations,” the authors write. African governments received $32.8 billion in loans in 2015 but paid $18 billion in debt interest and principal payments, with the overall level of debt rising rapidly. Other costs include the ‘brain drain’ effect, the cost to Africa as a result of the migration of health workers for example, and costs associated with climate change, a problem largely caused by Europe, America and other developed countries.

“Africa is not poor,” says the report in an effort to break with the powerful narrative in Western societies. “Whilst many people in African countries live in poverty, the continent has considerable wealth. A key problem is that the rest of the world, particularly Western countries, are extracting far more than they send back. Meanwhile, they are pushing economic models that fuel poverty and inequality, often in alliance with African elites.” According to Aisha Dodwell, a campaigner with Global Justice Now, the research shows that what African countries really need is for the rest of the world to stop systematically looting them. “While the form of colonial plunder may have changed over time, its basic nature remains unchanged.” The report contains a series of recommendations as to how the system extracting wealth from Africa could be dismantled. These measures include promoting economic policies that lead to equitable development, preventing companies with subsidiaries based in tax havens from operating in African countries, transforming aid into a process that genuinely benefits Africa, and compensating African countries for the impact of climate change that they did not cause. “The bleeding of Africa must stop!,” said Bernard Adaba, policy analyst with ISODEC in Ghana. (ab)

2017-05-24 |

Replace bee-killing neonic seed coatings with agroecological practices, report

Mais Monoculture makes corn more vulnerable to pests (Photo: CC0)

The use of environmentally harmful neonicotinoid insecticide seed coatings is unnecessary since there are many agroecological and other alternative farming methods that ensure productivity and resilience, while minimizing pollution. This is the finding of a new report released on May 22 by the Center for Food Safety, a US-based environmental organisation. The report compiles and analyses the peer-reviewed science on the efficacy of neonic seed coatings of corn and offers an overview of non-insecticidal alternatives to neonics. Neonicotinoid insecticides, mainly clothianidin and thiamethoxam, are applied to about 71 to near 100% of corn seed in the United States, affecting close to 90 million acres of farmland. They have been shown to harm pollinators, aquatic organisms, birds and other beneficial and non-target organisms. According to the report, this harm from neonic-coated corn seed is unnecessary since published studies reveal that the efficacy and yield benefit of neonic corn seed coatings might be lower than frequently claimed. “For years we have seen dramatically increasing use of these toxic pesticide, yet the peer-reviewed research shows that they rarely protect farmer profit or crop productivity,” said Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman, the report’s author. “What we’ve also seen is that industry-sponsored analysis of the chemicals’ efficacy relies heavily on non-peer-reviewed research, and contains several biases that overestimate the value of neonic seed coatings for improving corn yield.” In fact, neonics may even reduce yields as they also harm organisms that normally help keep pest insects in check.

The report argues that US farmers can rarely find uncoated seed and are left with little choice. “One of the main reasons that neonic seed coatings are ubiquitous has nothing to do with yield or farmer profits, but rather monopoly control by seed and pesticide companies that make it extremely difficult for farmers to find and buy uncoated seed,” said Gurian-Sherman. However, there are many alternatives to neonics, which result in high productivity and are better for the environment. These agroecological farming methods rely on knowledge of the ecology of corn pests and the use of biological diversity to ensure productivity and resilience. Agroecological systems break pest cycles through crop rotations and cover crops, and provide high levels of natural pest enemies that usually keep pests under control. “Longer crop rotations have been noted for decades to reduce corn pest insects generally, including the pests that are the target of neonic seed coatings,” the author writes. For example, crop rotation is well understood to control corn rootworms. Where agroecological practices are used, infestation and yield loss from early-season pests is highly uncommon, the report says.

However, there is a trend in U.S. industrial agriculture toward increased monoculture corn rather than longer rotations. The report makes several recommendations for government action to counteract this trend. “Farmers will require substantial help through policies, incentives, and regulations to move away from destructive industrial farming practices like neonic seed coatings to environmentally and socially sustainable agroecology-based farming systems that are also profitable,” writes Gurian-Sherman. Resources are needed for farmers to learn about and adopt alternative pest control methods and affordable or subsidized insurance should be made available for the rare cases where target pests might be a problem. In addition, more research is required to fill in gaps in our knowledge of the pests, and ecological practices that can control them. The report concludes that the use of neonic seed coatings should be greatly restricted, eventually leading to prohibition. (ab)

2017-05-15 |

Commercial agriculture is dominant driver of tropical deforestation, study

Space Deforestation caused by livestock agriculture in Paraguay (Photo: European Space Agency)

Large-scale commercial agriculture has been the main driver of deforestation in the tropics, new research shows. Clearings for large-scale agricultural expansion were responsible for an increasing proportion – in some places, more than half – of all observed forest loss across the tropics between 2000 and 2012, according to a study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The team of scientists at Duke University in North Carolina analysed deforestation trends by clearing size for this 12-year-period, using high-resolution, satellite-derived maps of forest cover produced by the University of Maryland. They found that Southeast Asia and South America saw the most severe losses. Over the study period, 79% of deforestation in the tropics occurred in these regions. “In South America, more than 60% of the increase in deforestation was due to a growing number of medium- and large-sized forest clearings typical of what you see with industrial-scale commercial agricultural activities,” said Jennifer J. Swenson, associate professor at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment. In Southeast Asia, losses increased from 1400 kha in 2001 to more than 3700 kha in 2012.

Brazil, which had stricter policies limiting agricultural expansion until 2012, was the only country showing a reverse trend. Average annual deforestation decreased from approximately 3000 kha to 2150 kha between the first and second halves of the study period. “This unique trend may be short-lived, however, given Brazil’s relaxed forest policies of the last few years,” Swenson added. According to the researchers, the emerging prominence of large-scale drivers of forest loss in many regions and countries, in particular Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Paraguay and Bolivia, suggests the growing need for policy interventions which target industrial-scale agricultural commodity producers. Small-scale farmers also contribute to forest clearings but to a smaller extent. “A small family farm that produces sustenance crops or food for local consumption typically causes less than 10 hectares - or just under 25 acres - of land to be cleared per year,” said co-author Kemen G. Austin. “These small clearings can have relatively modest impacts on biodiversity, habitat connectivity, carbon storage, water quality, erosion control and other vital ecosystem services the forest provides.” By comparison, an industrial-scale plantation - such as one that grows and processes palm oil or soybeans for the global market - can cause nearly 2,500 acres of land to be cleared annually. As the size of the cleared land increases, so do the scale and scope of the potential ecological impacts, the study warns. (ab)

2017-05-09 |

Share of GM soybean declined in 2016, 87% of world’s arable land GMO-free

Soybean Soybean, the most adopted GM crop (Photo: CC0)

The global area planted with genetically modified crops reached 185.1 million hectares in 2016 - at least according to the annual report of the GMO-friendly organisation “International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA)”. The global hectarage is up 3% from the 179.1 million hectares in 2015, when the area decreased for the first time since the commercial introduction of GM crops in 1996. The figures published on May 4 show that 91% of the cultivation of GM crops is still concentrated in just five countries. The United States top the list with with 72.9 million hectares or 39 per cent of the global area. Brazil ranks second with 49.1 million hectares, followed by Argentina (23.8 million hectares), Canada (11.6 million hectares) and India (10.8 million hectares). Other GM producing countries with an area of over one million hectares include Paraguay, Pakistan, China, South Africa, Uruguay and Bolivia. In Brazil, the area planted with GM crops increased by 11%. The country now accounts for one third of the area planted with genetically modified soybean. However, in Argentina, the hectarage of GM crops decreased by 3% and in India even by 7%.

Soybean remained the most adopted GM crop, covering 91.4 million hectares or 50% of the global area of GM crops. Genetically modified maize occupied 60.6 million hectares in 2016, 13% higher than the 2015 area, followed by cotton (22.3 million hectares) and rapeseed (8.6 million hectares). The good news is that the share of the three main GM crops, based on the global area planted with each individual crop, decreased as compared to the previous year. In 2016, 78% of soybean fields were planted with GM soybean (2015: 83%), the share of GM cotton as compared to conventional crops was 64% (2015: 75%) and for GM maize the figure was 26% (2015: 29%). Only the share of canola remained stable at 24%. Insect resistance and herbicide tolerance are the only two traits that have been developed and cultivated on a large scale. 47% of GM crops grown in 2016 were herbicide tolerant, 12% were insect resistant and 41% had a combination of both traits (stacked traits). Both the hectarage of GM crops featuring insect resistance and herbicide tolerance decreased while stacked traits increased by 29% or 16.9 million hectares in 2016.

As every year, the report praises the alleged benefits of GM crops to the skies. ISAAA claims that the adoption of GM crops has conserved biodiversity by removing 19.4 million hectares of land from agriculture in 2015 and led to a 19% reduction in herbicide and insecticide use. Additionally, in developing countries, planting GM crops is reported to have helped alleviate hunger by increasing the incomes for 18 million small farmers and their families, bringing improved financial stability to more than 65 million people. At least this is what ISAAA says, which is sponsored by agrochemical giant Monsanto and CropLife International, the association of agricultural biotech companies. However, the good news is that the 185.1 million hectares planted with GM crops in 2016 only made up roughly 3% of the total agricultural area and 13.8% of arable land while the rest still remains GMO-free. (ab)

2017-05-03 |

World Bank accused of fuelling land grabs through financial intermediaries

Bagger IFC projects caused land grabs and deforestation, says report (Photo: CC0)

The World Bank Group has indirectly financed projects that fuelled land grabbing, displaced thousands of people and caused deforestation and environmental damage worldwide. These are the findings of an investigation conducted by the human rights organization Inclusive Development International, which are summarized in the report “Unjust Enrichment: How the IFC Profits from Land Grabbing in Africa”. The report alleges that the World Bank’s private-sector arm, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), is supporting harmful investment projects by outsourcing its development funds to the financial sector. Through shadowy investments in financial intermediaries, such as commercial banks and private equity funds, the IFC has contributed to some of the most notorious land grabs in Africa, says the report, which was published on May 1 by Inclusive Development International, Bank Information Center, Accountability Counsel, Urgewald and the Oakland Institute. “Tens of millions of hectares of land on the African continent have been grabbed by foreign investors in recent years. This has led to loss of life, land, and livelihoods for millions, and threatened the very survival of entire communities and indigenous groups,” said Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of the Oakland Institute.

The report followed the trail of IFC money and uncovered 134 harmful or risky projects financed by 29 IFC financial-sector clients. These projects are found in 28 countries and on every continent except Antarctica. In Africa, the investigation uncovered 11 projects backed by IFC clients that have transferred approximately 700,000 hectares of land to foreign investors. The projects include agribusiness concessions in the Gambela region of Ethiopia that were cleared of their indigenous inhabitants during a massive forcible population transfer campaign in the area and a gold mine in Guinea that led to the violent forced eviction of 380 families. In Gabon, Ecobank Transnational, an IFC financial-sector client, has financed oil palm plantations and processing facilities operated by the Singaporean company Olam. The project is being developed on a 300,000-hectare concession that local and international environmental groups warn threatens to destroy large areas of the Congo Basin rainforest, harming biodiversity and the livelihoods of thousands of people. According to one investigation, Olam’s plantations have led to the destruction of at least 19,000 hectares of rainforest and had adverse impacts on the land and resource rights of local communities.

In addition, export-oriented industrial sugarcane plantations in Sierra Leone and Zambia, funded by multiple IFC financial intermediaries, have been accused of grabbing small-holder farmland and displacing thousands of people, leading to declining incomes and food security. “These projects are antithetical to the World Bank’s mission of fighting poverty through sustainable development,” said David Pred, Managing Director of Inclusive Development International. “They also make a mockery of the IFC’s social and environmental Performance Standards, which are supposed to be the rules of the road for the private sector activities that the IFC’s intermediaries support.” IFC responded to some of the allegations in the report, stating that it has already exited investments in banks highlighted in the report, including ICICI and Kotak Mahindra in India and BDO Unibank in the Philippines. The IFC Executive Vice President recently announced additional improvements in the way IFC works by scaling back IFC’s high-risk investments in financial institutions, increasing its oversight of intermediaries and bringing more transparency to these investments. “We welcome the IFC’s new commitments to encourage a more responsible banking system,” said Pred. “However, rather than simply divest, we want to see the IFC work with its clients to redress the serious harms that communities have suffered as a result of the irresponsible investments that we have brought to light.” (ab)

2017-04-28 |

EU Parliament calls for better access to land for small and medium farmers

Land Land concentration in the EU (Photo: CC0)

The European Parliament has called for urgent action to combat the concentration of agricultural land and to provide access to land for small and medium farmers. On April 27, it adopted a resolution and approved with a large majority an own-initiative report that recognizes the problem of land concentration in the EU and demands adequate responses. Land grabbing, the large-scale purchase of land for financial investment and industrial agricultural production, is no longer just a problem for developing countries. The report shows that not only in the former communist countries, but all over Europe, corporations are buying up large areas of land, often through legal loopholes. This has further increased the level of farmland concentration and tenure across the EU. Currently, only 3% of farms control more than 52% of arable land in Europe, whereas 76.2% of farms control only 11.2% of the agricultural land. The resolution underscores that this places inequality of land use in the EU – with a Gini coefficient of 0,82 – on a par with that of countries such as Brazil, Columbia and the Philippines, which are infamous for their notoriously unfair land distribution.

The impact of this land concentration on rural areas is devastating: Existing small- and medium-size farms or new entrants can hardly access land at fair prices. In addition, the land rush is boosted by the subsidies of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Around 80% of CAP subsidies go to only 20% of farms. This trend runs counter to the European sustainable, multifunctional agricultural model, in which family farms are an important feature, the resolution text says. The European Parliament therefore calls on both the EU Commission and the governments of the Member States to stop the further concentration of Europe’s agricultural areas. “The question of land distribution also raises the question of the socially desirable form of agriculture,” said Maria Heubuch, who shadowed the report for the Greens/EFA Group. „Let's face the facts: Concentration of land in the hands of fewer and fewer corporations is poison for rural regions. Jobs are being cut, added value is declining, and people’s relationship to food and confidence in agriculture are lost,” she added.

The resolution clearly “recognises the importance of small-scale family farms for rural life, since they play an active role in the economic fabric of rural areas by conserving the cultural heritage and maintaining rural life, sustaining social life and making sustainable use of natural resources, in addition to producing a sufficient amount of healthy and high-quality food”. It calls on the Member States “to give small and medium-sized local producers, new entrants and young farmers – while ensuring equal gender access – priority in the purchase and rental of farmland, including pre-emptive rights where established, as the ownership of as much as possible of the land they farm is in the interest of a sustainable and reliable development of their farms, particularly at a time when non-farmers are increasingly interested in purchasing agricultural plots.” The resolution also calls on the Member States to focus their land-use policies on using available tools – such as taxation, aid schemes and CAP funding – to maintain a family-farm-based agricultural model throughout the EU.“

The European Coordination Via Campesina (ECVC) and the Hands on The Land coalition welcomed the adoption of the report. They said the report could serve as a starting point to develop regulation at the European level to prevent land grabbing by large (often non farming) companies. “The European Parliament is now recognizing that it is time to redirect European and national land policies in order to prevent land speculation and to support peasant farming. This will result in more employment in the countryside and a fairer use of our European agricultural lands to provide nutritious and healthy food available for all, also for those who are most affected by the protracted economic crisis” said Antonio Onorati, member of the Coordinating Committee of ECVC. The organisations hope that the report will help to push the EU Commission to propose legislative changes for fairer land governance. (ab)

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