Civil Society Protests Against Agribusiness Greenwashing Over EU Food Policies

15 Mar 2022

On March 15, Slow Food joined other civil society and farmers’ organizations to protest against the Forum for the Future of Agriculture (FFA), a greenwashing event to strengthen the influence of the chemical and agri-food industry in the design of public policies. We call on our European decision makers to listen to science and citizens, not the agribusiness.

A Greenwashing Forum on Agriculture

Today, several civil society and farmer organizations are protesting against the agribusiness lobby in Brussels to oppose the Forum for the Future of Agriculture (FFA) that is taking place.

Organized by the pesticide multinational Syngenta, the landowner lobby ELO, and a number of agribusiness players (Cargill, Nestlé, Pepsico, John Deere, etc.), this forum is a major lobbying and greenwashing operation disguised as an open dialogue between agriculture and the environment.


(c) Friends of the Earth Europe

The protest gathered farmers and their supporters to oppose the chemical and agri-food industry’s greenwashing in the design of food policies. “A forum on agriculture that does not put farmers and their supporters at the centre of the debate has no legitimacy”!

One of the key messages of the protest is for the European Union to listen to the 1.2 million European citizens who have signed the European Citizens Initiative “Save bees and farmers”, demanding a full phase out of the use of synthetic pesticides in the European Union by 2035. This protest comes just over a week before the European Commission will publish its proposal for a revised pesticide policy: the Regulation on the Sustainable Use of Plant Protection Products.


(c) Slow Food Europe

Why Are We Protesting?

The European Union must listen to citizens and not to the pesticide lobby which make greenwashing claims that the use of pesticides can be sustainable. They are fighting hard to make sure that pesticides continue to be widely used across Europe, and against any strong pesticide reduction targets to be made legally binding. Strong targets, and more importantly, strong measures to ensure these targets is exactly what we need.

We worry that the European Commission will fall into their trap and propose a weak Regulation. Over 70 organizations across Europe have come together for a joint statement coordinated by Slow Food calling on the Commission to make 10 improvements on the draft of the Regulation for a real transition to a toxic free Europe.

As our statement recalls, we can no longer delay this much needed change: “The current agricultural model based on heavy use of machinery, fossil fuels, fertilizers and synthetic pesticides is today clearly showing its limits. In addition to devastating effects on the environment and health, this model has trapped European farmers in a vicious cycle of increased spending on pesticides to compensate for decreasing yields, without guaranteeing proper incomes. The economic benefits of this model are one sided and lay in the hands of a very concentrated industry, whose profits in Europe were estimated at 900€ million in 2017. In that same year, societal costs were estimated at 2.3€ billion”.


(c) Slow Food Europe

Our demands include strengthening the definition of Integrated Pest Management, which must make the application of agroecological practices mandatory to achieve pesticide use reduction targets. In addition, we demand that genetic engineering techniques be excluded from the Regulation as a way to achieve a reduction in pesticide use, and that the Regulation ban the use of highly damaging practices such as aerial spraying and the use of synthetic pesticides in residential areas and areas frequented by children.

The EU Must Implement the EU Farm to Fork Strategy

All this comes amid a wave of attacks on the EU Farm to Fork Strategy whereby industrial farming lobbies are taking full advantage of the Russian invasion in Ukraine to claim that food security is at risk in the European Union and are calling on the European Commission to set aside sustainable agriculture objectives for the moment.

We call on our European decision makers to listen to science and citizens, and not to the agribusiness lobby. We need them to be brave and stand by the EU Farm to Fork Strategy and pave the way for sustainable food systems in Europe. The first test comes on 23rd of March where we will watch and see if the Commission will indeed make a strong proposal to shift away from the use of synthetic pesticides in Europe. Anything less than a legally binding 50% reduction targets at both EU and national levels, accompanied by strong measures to support farmers to transition to agroecology, would mark a grim tone for the rest of the implementation of the Farm to Fork Strategy.

Follow Slow Food Europe on Twitter for live updates on the upcoming EU proposal for a new regulation of pesticides in Europe!

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