By Martin Banks - 19th September 2011
Crop rotation was already mentioned as a mandatory element of the first pillar payment in the 1999 CAP reform
Leaked documents of the commission's plans to reform the common agricultural policy (CAP) claim that measures to protect the environment and public health have been "severely watered down".
The leaked documents, which have been widely distributed on the internet, are the draft new laws that will govern how farmers are subsidised in the future.
Previously suggested commitments to ensure that farmers only receive subsidies if they implement a number of environmental measures have, according to the drafts, been weakened "with no guarantee" that they will improve biodiversity, public health or the climate.
The CAP, which traditionally takes up the biggest part of the annual EU budget, is currently under review by the commission.
Green campaigners say that "one of the most effective measures to protect the environment – the rotation of crops on the same field – has been turned into a non-measure in the so-called green component."
Gergely Simon, president of the pesticide action network (PAN) Europe, said, "Proper crop rotation for example, on maize fields including a leguminous crop like peas, beans or clover would not only increase farm diversity and benefit wildlife, it would also help to reduce pesticide dependency and as a result pollinators and citizen health.
"Crop rotation also benefits soil fertility, reduces fertiliser use and as a result helps to reduce green house gas emissions.
"Crucially, encouraging farmers to grow more protein animal feeds as part of the rotation would reduce Europe's dependency on imported soy, a major cause of deforestation, climate emissions and social disputes in South America.
He added, "Crop rotation is essential to make European soil remain fertile in the longer run and as a result a key to ensure food security. Furthermore, crop rotation is a key to combat climate change.
"Crop rotation was already mentioned as a mandatory element of the first pillar payment in the 1999 CAP reform, it is only logical that crop rotation gets at the centre of the green component."
Further comment came from Stanka Becheva, food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, who said, "We believe that an increased production of European protein crops would not only improve European wildlife, but also greatly reduce Europe's devastating dependence on imported soy to feeds its farm animals.
"Crop rotation within the 'greening' is the most effective way to do this. Many farmers already benefit from this measure as well as the environment."
PAN and Friends of the Earth Europe have called on the commission to push for the introduction of strict mandatory environmental, public health and social conditions for direct payments and further support for cultivation and use of home grown protein plants for animal feeds in the legal texts.