The Common Agriculture Policy (CAP), Europe's current framework for agricultural policy, was introduced in 1962 with the aim of strenghtening the European primary sector after World War II. Today, its one-sided production paradigm dramatically fails to adress environmental issues. Supported by the United Nations, Agroecology represents a promising alternative.
The CAP is a regulatory policy within the European Union (EU) that works through a system of monetary aids granted in direct proportion to production. This implies that the main beneficiaries of these financial aids are large agri-businesses in the 15 older EU Member States, or, in numbers: 80% of farm aid goes to about a quarter of EU farmers.
The one-way focus on production has also entailed an alarming growth of CO2 emissions and favors intensive monoculture that is costly in terms of water consumption, plant genetic diversity and loss of soil. In a more global perspective, the CAP creates unfair competition: The export of agricultural products subsidised by the EU make it impossible for small farmers in the Global South to gain a living.
For both environmental and ethical reasons, the one-sided production paradigm should therefore be replaced by a more environmentally and socially-centered approach: Agroecology.
As defined by Miguel Altieri, its five principles are as follows:
- Recycling biomass and balancing nutrient flows and availability
- Securing favorable soil conditions for plant growth
- Minimising losses of solar radiation and water
- Enhancing biological and genetic diversification
- Enhancing beneficial biological interactions
Alongside with these ecological principles, Agroecology supports local food economies and encourages local communities to manage common resources democratically.
A clear frame of public policies is, however, needed to implement this promising approach. The ongoing discussion on a profound reform of the CAP after 2020 presents a perfect opportunity to put Agroecology at the core of European agricultural policy.