A group of scientists has criticised some measures under the new CAP eco schemes and cautioned against 'de facto' environmental measures implemented for economic reasons, while also calling for 5% of utilised agricultural area to be dedicated to non-productive elements.

Over 300 scientists from 22 EU member states made recommendations on the design of the new green architecture in the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) this week.

The report, written by researchers at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research, states that its recommendations could turn the tide in favour of sustainability within the next six years.

Focus on sustainability

On reading the report, the focus is on environmental sustainability and not economic.

The report was developed along with the European Commission and advice was gathered through workshops and online surveys.

The findings are aimed at the EU's policy makers and ministers from the member states.

The report was critical of 'greening', which was part of the previous CAP.

Lead author Guy Pe'er stated that eco schemes, which will be in the new CAP, "can become a very effective instrument".

Critical of some measures

The authors were critical of some of the member states measures currently up for discussion in these eco schemes.

'Precision farming' was singled out and the authors seemed to be unhappy that the measure, while providing positive environmental impacts, is used for economic reasons on large farms.

Prof Sebastian Lakner from the University of Rostock stated: "For example, the measure 'precision farming' achieves positive environmental effects, but is de facto technology support for large farms that are actually using this technology for economic reasons.

"This example shows that there is an urgent need to focus scarce CAP funds on effective measures that are worthy of support."

The researchers recommended the following:

  • Setting high basic requirements for CAP funding through enhanced conditionality; to set aside at least 5% of the utilised agricultural area for non-productive elements and make it available for nature conservation.
  • The inclusion of a no-backsliding clause; the ecological condition of habitats such as grasslands should not be allowed to deteriorate, giving high priority to agri-environmental programmes as demonstrably the most effective measures for the protection of biodiversity among CAP instruments.
  • Promoting only measures that have been proven to be effective in eco schemes and exclude those that are already being implemented by farmers.
  • A points system to calculate and remunerate the value and effectiveness of measures.
  • Promoting the large-scale planning of measures and co-operation between farmers, as animals and plants do not see the boundaries of individual farms.
  • Irish submission

    The submission made by Irish scientists proposed that farms that meet a threshold of 10% for habitat areas would receive the full eco scheme payment - and that many Irish farms already meet the 5% requirement.

    See details of the Irish submission here.


    Five percent of the utilised agricultural area equates to about 4ac on the average Irish farm. This could be the difference between a farm making a profit or not.

    Many Irish farms have diverse crop rotations, grasslands, trees, hedgerows and scrub, already having a positive impact on biodiversity.

    These habitats should be maintained or improved before taking any land out of production.

    It is essential that these measures make sense on all three counts of sustainability (economics, environment and social) to ensure that farmers embrace the new CAP and all sectors of society benefit.