Time for a Real Paradigm Shift

20 Oct 2020

As the Common Agricultural Policy is entering its final voting phase, Francesco Sottile, shares his thoughts on the EU Green Deal, and highlights the importance of a fair, green, and sustainable Common Agricultural Policy.

In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, when everything seemed dark and uncertain, a ray of light broke through the European political landscape, giving a different meaning to those days.

In fact, we anticipated this as early as last December with the presentation of the Green Deal by the newly elected European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen. It showed that between disbelief and hope, it was finally time to talk about an ecological transition, a real change of pace directed towards the so-called zero impact on our continent. Far away, in 2050, but the fact that it takes all this time shows that this is the right path, that it is not a slogan.

Then in May, in an uncertain Europe that was trying to deal with the pandemic, an extraordinary step for the world of agriculture was taken from the European Commission, which presented the Farm to Fork and Biodiversity 2030 strategies, two of the Green Deal’s main pillars, dedicated to sustainable food production and consumption, and to the protection of biodiversity.

Released by the European Commission, the Green Deal delivers an objective and critical analysis of the role that agricultural production has to play in the fight against climate change and sets precise goals (although in some cases a little timid, but overall ambitious and courageous). Putting agroecology at the center of the transition to low-impact agriculture is the real paradigm shift, and strengthening policies in support of organic farming unequivocally show that the European Commission wants to help design a new relationship between us humans and the planet we all inhabit. Changing of paradigm means, in fact, reshaping this relationship by trying to counter models of industrial agriculture that neglect soil, water, and biodiversity, although they provide fundamental services to our ecosystem and guarantee the resilience of our cultivated environments.

Biodiversity is our safeguard for the future. Agricultural biodiversity is fundamental as it guarantees resilience and contrasts the climate crisis; but also, cultural biodiversity, in the form of knowledge, know-how, and traditions is essential. Culture and nature, domestication, and wilderness.

All this finds its place in the European Commission’s strategies and should become a concrete European policy for the future. It all seems simple, but it is not.

What will the European Parliament do in the next few days? Will it be able to guarantee the success of such an ambitious and courageous project so that the Commission’s strategies become a beacon in the construction of the new Common Agricultural Policy (the CAP is one of the most important European wide policies, committing about 39% of the European budget)? This is probably Europe’s last chance to demonstrate to younger generations that a paradigm shift is needed. If the EU Parliament ignores the objectives of the ecological transition, there will hardly be other opportunities such as this one in the future.

The European Parliament is elected by the people. We cannot accept political agreements between MEPs and lobby groups that aim at lowering the level of ecological objectives to safeguard industrial and intensive monoculture, without any regards for the much-needed agricultural transition.

We expect from CAP policies to aim at strengthening our agriculture by putting at the center the network of small-scale farmers, who are also guardians and caretakers of territories, knowledge, and landscape. We are a part of Europe and we expect Europe to empower and support responsible producers. It will be up to every Member State to build a strong, cohesive, and representative National Strategic Plan adapted to the needs of their national agricultural landscape. Plans that are built through dialogue and public consultations, and involvement of civil society and their representatives. Dialogue, courage, ambition, transition, agroecology are all key concepts of the future we would like to give to future generations, who are watching and judging us today.

Francesco Sottile


Cover image Credit Frederic Köberl from Unsplash.com

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