EU calls for more organic farming and improved animal welfare in blueprint for greener future

EU calls for more organic farming and improved animal welfare in blueprint for greener future

There is an urgent need to reduce dependency on pesticides, reduce excess fertilisation, increase organic farming, improve animal welfare, and reverse biodiversity loss.

That was one of the main conclusions of the EU as the bloc set out its new biodiversity and "farm to fork" strategy to halt biodiversity loss in Europe and worldwide, as well as transforming food systems "into global standards for competitive sustainability, the protection of human and planetary health, as well as the livelihoods of all actors in the food value chain".

The EU said the strategy proposes to establish binding targets to restore damaged ecosystems and rivers, and improve the health of EU protected habitats and species.

It aims to do so by bringing back pollinators to agricultural land, reducing pollution, greening cities, enhancing organic farming and other biodiversity-friendly farming practices, and improving the health of European forests.

The EU said the strategy brings forward "concrete steps to put Europe's biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030", including transforming at least 30% of Europe's lands and seas into "effectively managed protected areas and bringing back at least 10% of agricultural area under high-diversity landscape features".

It said its farm to fork strategy will enable the transition to a sustainable EU food system that safeguards food security and ensures access to healthy diets. 

Aims include a reduction by 50% of the use and risk of pesticides, a reduction by at least 20% of the use of fertilisers, a reduction by 50% in sales of antimicrobials-- which kills microorganisms or stops their growth -- used for farmed animals and aquaculture, and reaching 25% of agricultural land under organic farming. 

Healthy eating promotion, including improved labeling to better meet consumers' information needs on healthy, sustainable foods, will also be prioritised.

Executive vice-president for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans said: “The coronavirus crisis has shown how vulnerable we all are, and how important it is to restore the balance between human activity and nature. 

"Climate change and biodiversity loss are a clear and present danger to humanity. 

"At the heart of the Green Deal, the Biodiversity and Farm to Fork strategies point to a new and better balance of nature, food systems and biodiversity; to protect our people's health and well-being, and at the same time to increase the EU's competitiveness and resilience. 

"These strategies are a crucial part of the great transition we are embarking upon.”

BirdWatch Ireland said it welcomed the "radical" plans. 

By releasing the two strategies at the same time, BirdWatch Ireland said, the EU is acknowledging that "we need to support farmers in a food system that works with nature and not against it and that this must be the norm in Europe".

The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) said if implemented, the plans would see a transformation of farming, fishing and land use in general. 

IWT campaign officer Pádraic Fogarty said: "These plans go a long way in setting the standard for where we need to be in 10 years. 

"However, too often in the past we've seen these bold initiatives come to nothing as they are effectively ignored by member states. This time must be different."

The trust said it was urging all political parties to get behind the plans.

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