The impact of CAP changes on biodiversity


The latest changes to EU agricultural policy will have a disproportionate impact on biodiversity and encourage further intensification of animal production. This is affirmed by a European team of ecologists and biodiversity experts in a publication by Earth and Environment Communications.

According to the research team in which researchers from the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC) participate: “The environmental requirement of the common agricultural policy has been relaxed, allowing the cultivation of fallow land to produce animal feed and cover the export deficit of Ukraine and Russia. The conversion of these semi-natural habitats will have a very negative impact on agricultural biodiversity and food security.

Common agricultural policy and the decline of biodiversity

The European Union’s new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) (2023-2027) aims to reverse the current environmental degradation. In addition, faced with the decline of biodiversity in European agricultural landscapes, it sets itself three objectives:

  • Contribute to the mitigation of climate change.
  • Support the effective management of natural resources.
  • Reverse the loss of biodiversity.

After the outbreak of war in Ukraine, the European Commission approved a series of short and medium term changes. They relax the environmental commitments of the CAP to compensate for the foreseeable shortage of cereal imports and improve food security. It is proposed to allow the cultivation of fallow land which has hitherto been part of the “Areas of ecological interest”. These lands are included in the CAP green payment.

The arguments denouncing the negative impact of this measure are based on a review of European agricultural statistics. In addition, they are based on the main research results on the relationships between agricultural management and biodiversity. In the words of Mario Díaz, co-author of the book and researcher at the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN-CSIC): “We have spent decades studying the relationships between agricultural uses and biodiversity and associated ecosystem services. Our studies show that extensive agriculture generates environmental benefits as opposed to intensification or agricultural abandonment which generate negative effects”.

Towards a more sustainable agriculture

“Europe should move towards a more sustainable agriculture with the environment because, according to studies carried out to date, in the long term, intensive animal husbandry and agriculture deplete the productivity of the land”comments Manuel Morales, main author of the communication, signed by members of different European research centers, including the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), the Forest Science and Technology Center of Catalonia (CTFC), the universities of Barcelona and of Valladolid and several CSIC Centers (MNCN, EBD, IREC).

Ultimately, these policy changes could jeopardize biodiversity and long-term agricultural sustainability in Europe, in favor of modest increases in current agricultural production and uncertain improvements in food security.concludes Gérard Bota, from the CTFC.

Character font: MNCN SCCI

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