European Parliament Committee Sticks a Feather in the CAP

Ring-fencing of funding essential in the next CAP to protect birds and bees

14th February 2019

Today, the Environment Committee of the European Parliament voted to ring-fence a significant €15 billion of the next Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) to support farmers in restoring nature on farmland. This represents a significant vote of confidence to reverse the declines in wildlife and habitats on farmland. The next step is for the Agriculture Committee of the Parliament to do the same and then the whole Parliament must endorse this approach.

Oonagh Duggan said, “It is very encouraging to see this financial commitment to save nature and reform agriculture policy, especially when more research was published this week showing collapsing insect populations globally with intensive agriculture as the main drivers. Now we need MEPs to follow through with a decisive whole-of-Parliament vote to give farmers the money to do right by nature.

International research has found that insect populations are in precipitous decline worldwide, with potentially catastrophic effects on the birds, plants and other species which depend on them. The research found that 40% of insect species globally are threatened with extinction, with butterflies and moths, bees, sawflies, wasps, ants and dung beetles most affected. The main driver is habitat loss due to intensive agriculture, with pollution, particularly from pesticides and fertilisers, also having an impact. The study is robust, in that it involves the meta-analysis of 73 historical studies going back over 40 years. Its conclusions have been validated by several other studies, most notably by a recent German study that found insect populations collapsing by over 75% in just 27 years in German nature reserves.

Worryingly, in Ireland similar annual declines of bees and butterflies have been recorded over the past 10 years. Dr. Tomás Murray of the National Biodiversity Data Centre has said, "Across the 120 sites in their national butterfly monitoring scheme, recorders have detected an average annual decline of butterflies of 2.6% over the past 10 years, slightly above the global average of 1.8%.  Similarly, across the 100 sites in the bumblebee scheme, recorders have observed average declines of 3.7% per annum over the past six years, markedly above the 1.0% global average."

The cause of the declines of wild bees here includes habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation due to intensification of agriculture and land use change, pesticide use and ‘tidying up’ gardens and farms. Most species of land-based birds in Ireland depend on insects to feed their chicks, and some species like Swallows and Swifts depend on insects as adults too.

Intensification of agriculture in Ireland fuelled by Food Wise 2025 is a cause of significant concern: we expect it will have serious negative impacts on nature in Ireland. The Common Agriculture Policy provides an overarching framework and is the most influential policy on the conservation status of birds, insects and other wildlife on land and freshwater in Ireland. It is critical that this food policy is shaped to work better for nature.

BirdWatch Ireland calls on Irish Members of the European Parliament, and the political parties with whom some are affiliated, to ensure that €15 billion is ring-fenced in the next CAP to support farmers to produce food that also supports the birds and the bees.

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