CAP reform: a pale and unhealthy shade of green


The Common Agricultural Policy reform proposal is a step in the right direction but far too light a green to make the needed change to reduce external input dependency and to ensure long term food security.

Sustainable agricultural practice in combination with biological, rather than chemical, control should be central to the reform of Europe‟s agricultural policy, according to two leading European not-for-profit organisations.

Responding to the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform proposal presented today in Brussels, Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN Europe) and Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) say that the reform proposal as it stands is half-hearted. For while the proposal recognises the much-needed environmental shift, the measures proposed to make the shift are insufficient (and unable to ensure the needed change) to reduce external input dependency, such as pesticides and fertilisers, and to ensure long term food security.

Reductions in external inputs are possible. “A study released in July this year (1) shows that French farmers can reduce their pesticide use by 30% without reducing their income. The two main reasons for not implementing less intensive techniques are farmers‟ aversion to risk and the anticipated labour and skill requirements for implementing these techniques,” says Henriette Christensen, senior policy advisor at PAN Europe.

“It is disappointing that the European Commission did not propose crop rotation as one of the mandatory elements in the green component in their proposal. This could have helped ensure the paradigm shift in agriculture, and helped deliver on the EU roadmap on resource efficiency, which is also being discussed at EU level.”

Fewer chemical control inputs would also reduce monetary and health costs to society. “A new study released this week in France (2) shows that annual water treatment costs to households due to nitrogen and pesticides contamination total up to 1.5 billion Euros. The annual cost for cleaning up nitrogen and pesticide surpluses in surface and coastal water treatment is estimated between 54 and 91 billion Euros in France. The figures on costs - for only one EU country - underline the urgency for significant CAP reforms that work to reduce this pollution. At present, taxpayers are footing the water bill and everyone is facing unnecessary health costs resulting from longer term exposure to pesticides, especially farmers,” says Anne Stauffer, HEAL Deputy Director.

PAN Europe and HEAL are calling on the EU politicians discussing the European Commission‟s proposal to seriously reflect on:

A faster inclusion of the sustainable use directive on pesticides in cross compliance: Farmers should respect the rules of both the water framework directive and the sustainable use of pesticides directive as of January 2014, and not wait until these directives have been “properly applied” in all EU Member States.

Crop rotation as part of green payment of the first pillar: Crop rotation would reduce the need for chemical inputs, such as fertilisers and pesticides, and promote biodiversity. Each farmer will be obliged to apply a package of agricultural measures, such as diversification of crops, but the present proposal does not include crop rotation.

Biological control as the model for sustainable innovation: Each farmer applying for rural development funding should take a „system approach‟ to farming. This starts with the delivery of a (certified) plan to drastically change methods and deliver advances in agricultural practices. These will prioritise harm prevention, resistant crop varieties and use of biological control. The starting point for knowledge transfer must be organic farmers spreading their knowledge to conventional farmers.

These requirements will help make European agriculture greener and diversified, and no longer the very light green that it is now. ****

-- ENDS --

Background notes:
(1) Florence Jacquet et al, An economic analysis of the possibility of reducing pesticides in French field crops, Ecological Economics (2011), doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2011.04.003
(2) The study is available at

Background information

Column in French newspaper “Les Echos” signed by coalition of NGOs:

FactsheetsThe Truth behind the CAP: 13 reasons for greening the CAP” published in June 2011

For further information please contact:
Henriette Christensen, Pesticide Action Network Europe
Tel: + 32 2 503 08 37, Mobile: +32 473 375671, henriette [at],

Anne Stauffer, Health & Environment Alliance, Tel: +32 2 234 3643 (direct). Mobile: +32 473 71 10 92. E-mail: anne [at] Website:

© PAN Europe, Rue de la Pacification 67, 1000, Brussels, Belgium, Tel. +32 2 318 62 55

PAN Europe gratefully acknowledges the financial support from the European Union, European Commission, DG Environment, Life+ programme. Sole responsibility for this publication lies with the authors and the funders are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.