EuropaBio position on the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030
Read our position on the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy.
Why we support biodiversity and the Commission’s intentions
The Earth is rapidly losing its biodiversity, as the Commission’s Biodiversity Strategy correctly emphasises. In 2019, the World Biodiversity Council (IPBES) published the global report on the state of biodiversity and ecosystem services, which stated that the state of nature deteriorates dramatically and that valuable ecosystems are increasingly damaged. Biodiversity is important for all biotechnology application areas.
EuropaBio fully supports the ambitions of the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy, which are to protect nature, restore damaged ecosystems and promote the sustainable use of forest, agriculture, marine, fresh water, and urban ecosystems in order to protect biodiversity.
EuropaBio equally supports the ambitions of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which are (1) the conservation of biological diversity, (2) the sustainable and safe use of its components, and (3) the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from such use.
Why less productive agriculture actually risks harming biodiversity
EuropaBio fully supports sustainable agriculture.
The Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services has ranked, for the first time at this scale, the five direct drivers of change in nature with the largest relative global impacts so far. “These culprits are, in descending order: (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species.” In other words, an important way to help to save species from extinction is to limit our land (and sea) use. Given that most of the land used by humanity is used for agriculture, growing more food on less land is essential. Fortunately, plant science has shown that it can make a huge contribution, by increasing crop yields: since 1960, global crop production has tripled without equivalent increase in land use.
Productivity increases will have to continue, as the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that global food supply needs to increase by 70% by 2050. In order to meet global food challenges, we will have to grow more with less: less land, less input, less water and less energy.
Instead, some of the Commission’s targets to reducing the impact of agriculture would risk making European agriculture less productive. To meet increasing food demands, reduced production on the available agricultural land in the EU would have to be compensated by increasing the agricultural area at the expense of nature, whether this be within or – more likely – outside the EU.
Why innovation should be supported to make agriculture even eco-friendlier
The Commission’s Biodiversity Strategy rightly points out that “industry and business (…) also produce the important innovations, partnerships and expertise that can help address biodiversity loss”.
Fortunately, producing more with less is possible, if the EU allows an enabling toolbox of technologies and approaches to further improve agriculture.
Greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector declined by 20 % between 1990 and 2015, according to Eurostat, and in the same period EU agriculture increased its overall productivity by 25%, according to COPA-COGECA.
This is partly due to innovative solutions and practices, including (but not limited to) eco-friendly practices, often pioneered by integrated crop or agriculture management, more efficient pesticides, and solutions enabled by biotechnology.
EuropaBio believes that, in the interest of making agriculture even more eco-friendly, the EU should be solution-oriented and encourage all these innovative solutions and practices. If facilitated with an enabling (regulatory) environment, biotechnology could contribute very significantly towards reducing pesticide use, without compromising productivity (see section 4). In addition, biotechnology extends the possibilities of contributing to sustainable agriculture by offering a variety of options for different farming systems.
Ensuring a proportionate and innovation-friendly regulatory approach to current and future biotechnology innovation would bring further benefits and solutions for sustainable agriculture and thus help realize ambitious Green Deal objectives in a more effective and timely manner.
The need for objective environmental footprint indicators for all farming models
EuropaBio underlines the importance of using meaningful and objective indicators (e.g. those of the EU Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) scheme, the Livestock Environmental Assessment and Performance Partnership of the FAO and the US field to market programme) to set sustainability objectives and measure progress. Such indicators should include greenhouse gas emissions, (efficient) land use, soil conservation, and water and energy use, as well as acidification and eutrophication potential, regardless of the farming model. Reduced productivity in Europe’s agriculture with lower land use efficiency would risk harming biodiversity (and global food security), as outlined above (section 3). As regards greenhouse gas emissions, while less productive forms of agriculture might contribute to lower GHG emissions through decreased use of farm inputs and increased soil carbon sequestration, they might also in fact exacerbate emissions through greater food production elsewhere to make up for lower yields. Before focusing on a single model, we urge the Commission to follow an objective and science-based approach, taking all sustainability factors into account.