Changing the CAP

On 2 May the European Commission ended the public consultation on the proposals for the Common Agricultural Policy over the next few years. The idea of the CAP was there at the start of the European Community, in order to put into practice the aims set out in the Treaty of Rome (1957). The CAP forms part of the current EU Treaty, with article 39 setting out its aims:

(a) to increase agricultural productivity by promoting technical progress and by ensuring the rational development of agricultural production and the optimum utilisation of the factors of production, in particular labour;

(b) thus to ensure a fair standard of living for the agricultural community, in particular by increasing the individual earnings of persons engaged in agriculture;

(c) to stabilise markets;

(d) to assure the availability of supplies;

(e) to ensure that supplies reach consumers at reasonable prices.

These are concrete objectives that should mean the population of Europe is safe from any food need or risk. But this is not the case. On the one hand we have over-production of some products, on the other insufficiencies that mean we have to import large quantities from Latin America and Canada. To this we must add the aggravating factor of industrial farming, which threatens the environment with pollution and the destruction of soil, water, air and ecosystems. In short we have lost the ability to feed the population of Europe. Thanks in part to the incentives provided by the CAP, we are favouring a small number of large farms that produce food which increasingly harms our health, the environment, plants and animals.

The public consultation on the new CAP, set up by the European Commission itself, is over, but many objections have been raised. There have been strong calls for a return to a kind of farming that can safeguard the environment and health. But will these words be heard? We shall continue to follow the path of this text that for the moment concentrates mainly on technology rather than on the productive capacity and cycles of Nature. In the meantime, we invite our readers to look at the Agriculture Atlas 2019, which was published in English last May. It provides a detailed snapshot of how the current CAP is applied in the EU. It also puts forward solutions that reconsider the role of farmers and the use of our soils.