Are Farmers the Enemies of Nature?

12 Feb 2024

The Slow Food association has supported producers who work with respect for the land, biodiversity and consumer health for many years, always prioritizing the environment and social justice

Exploiting the difficulties of those who work the land is a dangerous fuse that is igniting Europe and is the result of decades of political short-sightedness "

- Slow Food Italy -

Farmers’ protests are currently sweeping Europe, with tractors being driven down city streets across the continent. Sadly, the reaction has followed a script that we see repeated daily in many contexts. A protest that has developed out of deep hardship is being trivialized, in this case reduced to a clash between farmers and environmentalists or farmers and the European Union, as well as being exploited and manipulated by those seeking an electoral advantage or the protection of private interests.

This polarization hinders any understanding of the actual problems, let alone solutions, instead aggravating them and exacerbating tensions.

Side by side on the tractors we can see farmers who practice intensive agriculture, which is supported by millions of euros but still leaves them and the land impoverished, and virtuous farmers who are being abandoned to their fate, without a future, just like the rural areas where they live and work that are all too often ignored by governments and policymakers. It is precisely those rural areas that are so vulnerable to the increasingly frequent extreme weather events.

The fire currently raging across Europe is the result of decades during which politics has neglected agriculture and the living and working conditions of those who produce food, especially in inland areas. Today, a handful of financial groups and multinationals control much of industrial food production: seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, the genetics of animal breeds, processing and distribution. Our food system does not protect its foundations (the land and those who work it), but instead annihilates the most virtuous farmers and generates intolerable waste (almost a third of all the food produced). For years, we have turned a blind eye to farmers forced to let fruit rot on trees because it costs too much to harvest it; those who, out of desperation, poured milk onto the streets; others selling wheat at the same price as ten years ago; and still more crushed by the demands of large retailers. And so the discontent has exploded, directed (deliberately) at the wrong target: the ecological transition and measures put in place to protect the environment. As the environmentalist Alexander Langer said, "the ecological transition will be primarily social, or it will not be." "

- Serena Milano, director of Slow Food Italy -

The Green Deal is a necessary path. These years are crucial. We must act now to counter the climate crisis, rebuild a harmonious and sensible relationship with nature, restore the fertility of European soils and produce food with respect for animals and the environment. As many studies have shown, starting from the IPBES-IPCC report, only biodiversity will allow us to adapt to the effects of the climate crisis. But we must support and accompany those who produce our food using agroecological practices and also support all the others by activating shared pathways. We hear of the considerable European subsidies for agriculture, but people forget that most of the money from the Common Agricultural Policy continues to go only to a few large companies, with 80% of the funding going to 20% of agricultural businesses, primarily rewarding intensive agriculture. It is political institutions, made up of people we ourselves choose through voting, who dispense these funds in such short-sighted ways. Without a transition and regeneration that is both ecological and social, our agriculture will lose out and be increasingly at the mercy of multinationals and market sentiment. And we will all lose the opportunity for a future of beauty because we will not save nature, Nature will save us! "

- Barbara Nappini, president of Slow Food Italy -

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