EU Farms on the decline

2540332_935c95d8Farming in the EU has sharply declined since the 1990s. In the 12 member states that made up the EU there were 8 million farms, by 2000 when Austria, Finland and Sweden were added to the list, the number of farms in the EU declined to 6.6 million.

Overall, the farms in Europe are decreasing at the rate of 2% every year. In countries such as Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the UK the decline were up to 8% a between 2002 and 2003.

In addition to decrease in farms, the demography of farmers is also changing. Today only 6% of farmers are under the age of 35 in the EU, while 34% of all farmers are above 65.

Reasons for change

There are various factors that are responsible for these changes. One of them is both the size and profitability of farming. Firstly, many farms are being consolidated in the hands of a few big corporations. This means that while small-scale farming has decline, large-scale farming has been booming. In Germany, the average farm size has increased from 10 to 40 hectares in the past 40 years.

When looking at the financial breakdown of EU support for farmers, we can easily see why the big farms have been getting bigger, while the small ones have come close to disappearing. As ironic as it may be, while the price on food has been increasing from year to year, farmer wages have been declining.

The European Parliament has noted that between 1995 and 2002 the prices paid to farmers for their produce has declined by 1.1%. In France, prices paid to farmers have declined by 15% for beef and 30% for pork between 1990 and 2008. And while the EU also has a subsidy system, most of the money is concentrated in small hands.

74% of the European Community’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds that yearly go to aid farmers is received by 20% of EU farmers (mainly big corporations), while 70% of farmers must share only 8% of the funds.

Shifting Atmosphere

In addition to all the money and land worries, the lifestyle of a farmer is becoming ever so stressful. The stress, work-related accidents, illnesses, high levels of suicide due to mounting debts and more restrictions as new laws are created around seeds, and their trade.

Empirical evidence of farming across the EU has shown that the situation is getting worse, with increasing human right abuse cases, economic exploitation and lack of job security. These workers are known as the ‘new slaves of capitalism’. (Herman, 2008). This slow monopolization of our farming in the hands of big companies is like a rope around the necks of small-scale farmers that is getting tighter with each year.

Our current food system is in need of a complete fix. One thing we can start with is fair wages for farmers and a fairer distribution of the EU CAP funds.

Reference:

1.Pimbert, Michel. “Participatory Research and On-Farm Management of Agricultural Biodiversity in Europe.”

Posted by Hokuma Karimova

We Need Food Diversity!

Screen Shot 2013-04-19 at 7.54.13 PMThe problem of food waste runs deep. We talk a lot about tons of good food going to waste and the loss it has on our natural resources, money and energy. We also mention that it is wrong to waste so much good food while so many live below the poverty line.

In the EU the statistics are staggering. 90 million tons of food is wasted every year as 79 million citizens live below the poverty line. The ´specific marketing standards´alone are responsible for 30-40% of produce being tossed away because they don´t look a certain way.

One thing that gets left out of this discussion is food diversity! What we fail to understand is that all fruits and vegetables have different varieties. For instance, avocado has about 1,000 different variations, apples about 7,500.

The standards that EU places on food and vegetables before selling them on the market greatly cuts down this diversity. Farmers that grow this food are left with huge losses because they can´t sell their crops on the market. This makes our food system less adaptable to changing climates.

The International Institute for Environment and Development published a 2011 study called ¨Participatory Research and On-Farm Management of Agricultural Biodiversity in Europe¨. The study outlines negative effects of the lack of diversity. They warn ¨that the biological diversity that forms the basis of food supplies and agriculture’s ability to adapt to climate change is disappearing because the dominant policies favour large corporations and uniformity over small-scale farmers and variety.¨

This means that big corporations that have access to the dominant sort of seeds make money and gain control over what type of food we see in the supermarket. Small farmers are pushed out of the market either because they don´t have money to pay for expensive patented genes, or they don´t have access to propriety technologies that are owned by large corporations.

As our climate keeps changing and weather patterns begin to have more effect on the food we buy, the actions we take now could determine whether in 5 years we can still afford to eat nutritious food.  

To make sure we can all afford good food in the coming years, sign the EU! Bring back Good Food! petition and tell EU to stop putting ´standards´on our food. Together we can save our food system from collapse.

 

EU! Bring back Good Food!

tomatoWe are very excited to announce the launch of our new campaign: EU! Bring back Good Food!

The aim of the campaign is to help Europe reduce its 90 million tonne a year food waste problem. How do we try to do that? By changing the EU Regulation 543/2011. This regulation sets ‘Specific Marketing Standards‘ on 10 fruits and vegetables currently sold in Europe. These 10 produce (apples, citrus fruits, kiwis, lettuces, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes, tomatoes)  make up 75% of the EU’s fruit and vegetable market.

What this means is that a good amount of edible food is being wasted simply because they don’t look a certain way. It is time to change this and ensure that all this nutritious food is going to people, not trashcans. In the EU 79 million citizens live below the poverty line, and more of that good food needs to be available to EU citizens, not wasting away in landfills.

We know that many supermarkets have their own grocery standards, and that even if the petition does reach the EU Parliament it doesn’t mean supermarkets will immediately start selling different food. However, since this is an EU Regulation it means that all national standards must also loosen their ‘marketing standards’, and since most supermarkets abide by the national standards, grocery stores all over Europe would increase the variety of food available on the shelves. This means that more good food will flow into supermarkets rather than go to waste.

If you agree with us and want to see more good food making it to family tables and not trashcans, then sign our petition and tell EU to Bring back Good Food! We hope you help us fix our broken food system by supporting the campaign and telling your friends to join! Together we can have a more healthy and sustainable food chain.

Climate change woes

The European Environment Agency warned that the climate change situation in Europe is already evident and is set to get worse. The negative impacts are not only limited to forests, agriculture and fisheries, they also impact the health of humans and our ability to survive.

The report mentioned that the emissions gap, the difference between current level of carbon emission and that needed to avert climate change, is widening. In fact, a World Bank report predicted that with present trends we are on our way to surpass not a 2C increase, but 4C.

All this is a big monetary problem for a budget tight Europe, whose expenses due to extreme weather patterns has gone up, and are only expected to increase. All scientists urge governments and individuals for more efficiency and more action to prevent such catastrophes.