Blog Posts: Agricultural policy

October 2nd, 2018

A 20,000-cow Dairy Farm in Europe? No way!

by David Sánchez

Noviercas is a small village of 158 inhabitants in Northeast Spain. It is located in the province of Soria, inside a region known as the “Spanish Siberia” because of the low population density, less than 8 people per square kilometer.

This village became famous when the co-op Valle del Odieta announced last year their intentions to build a 20,000-cow factory farm in the village. It would be the biggest dairy farm in Europe and the project immediately became controversial for all the potential impacts it could bring to the area and to the farming sector.

Farmers are leading the opposition, as they estimate this factory farm would destroy 700 direct jobs, one third of the dairy farms in the region. It would produce around 368,000 tons of manure per year, the equivalent of the waste produced by a city of 4.4 million people. And the farm would consume between 4 and 6.35 million liters of water per day, more than the total consumption of the city of Soria (40,000 inhabitants). Impacts on the environment and local communities can be huge.

This farm has nothing to do with the European model of livestock farming. We have witnessed fierce resistance to previous dairy mega factory farms with 8,000 thousand cows in the UK or even actions of civil disobedience against a 1,000-cow farm in France.

We cannot allow this model, imported from the US, to come to Europe. Impacts of these huge factory farms are well documented and are reason enough to ask for a ban. Stopping this farm would be a really symbolic step against the invasion of factory farms in Europe to defend a sustainable and social model of farming.

You can read more about it here in English, Spanish and French.

We will campaign with our allies to stop this project. Stay tuned!

January 22nd, 2018

Ready, Steady, 2018: What Food & Water Europe Will Fight for in the Coming Year

By Frida Kieninger, David Sánchez and Andy Gheorghiu

In 2017 we worked hard to change things for the better – fighting for sustainable agriculture, public water, better trade agreements, and clean energy solutions. The past year was a tough one seeing U.S. President Trump’s destructive decisions on social, energy and environmental issues and another series of devastating disasters linked to climate change. Nevertheless, now more than ever we are motivated to make 2018 a successful year for our beautiful fragile planet. Can we count on you?

Read the full article…

May 13th, 2016

Quiet Win Keeps Factory Farms in Check

By Eve Mitchell

We're Stoppint Factory FarmsUK Government silliness just took a big hit. Thank goodness.

Those of you with long memories will know about ongoing UK plans to let business regulate itself. From the Business Focus on Enforcement, to the Red Tape Challenge, to the current Cutting Red Tape project, it’s pretty much the same story: The government asks Big Business if it would like less enforcement of fewer regulations, and, no surprise, Big Business says, “Yes, please!”

Read the full article…

September 11th, 2015

UK Milk Crisis – The Rest of The Story

By Eve Mitchell

dairy cows grazing

UK dairy farmers are understandably at their wits’ ends. Trying to stay in business selling your goods at a price that doesn’t cover what it costs you to make it must really wear you down when you know what you make is in nearly every fridge in the land. Farmers have been squeezed hard, particularly by supermarkets using milk as a loss leader (of course they want to pay as little as possible if they aim to sell the milk at a loss anyhow).

Read the full article…

April 24th, 2015

More Broken Promises about Democracy over GMOs

By Eve Mitchell

We say no to GMO

Another day, another disappointment about genetically modified (GM) food to fire us up. So be it.

Followers of our GM woes here in the EU may remember that the hard-won scientific underpinning of our laws on GM food and crops have been slowly undermined over the past few years, and our confidence in our food system further eroded at each step. Non-GM animal feed can now contain up to 0.9% GM material, which doesn’t feel like “non-GM” at all, and some want to apply a similar contamination level to food now, too. The central system for authorising new GM crops now enables countries to ban (sorry, “opt out”) of approved crops, confusing the pan-EU Single Market and annoying both citizens and the GM industry in one go. Honey can now contain GM pollen, but you have no way of knowing if it’s in the jar on your table. Read the full article…

April 10th, 2015

Democracy Over GMOs – Digging in For The Long Haul

Food & Water Europe Let Me Decide Say No To GM CropsBy Eve Mitchell

Now that EU Member States can ban genetically modified (GM) crops (and they should) we’re digging in to get the next big change we need – democratic control over GM authorisations. Read the full article…

April 8th, 2015

Trust us. We’re scientists.

By Eve Mitchell

CorporateControlFoodWaterEuropeIt isn’t hard to figure out why giant drug, seed and agrichemical conglomerates play such a big role in the science surrounding their controversial products and practices.

Industry-funded studies routinely produce results favourable to industry, far more so than independent work, and companies need these favourable studies to gain regulatory approval, win market confidence or, just as often, fend off claims that their products are unsafe. The results aren’t pretty. The tobacco industry used to claim that cigarettes were good for you. Right now a cancer link to Monsanto’s world-beating weedkiller glyphosate is unfolding after decades of “science”-backed use as a “safe” product. Read the full article…

March 31st, 2015

UK Sells Off Fera, Privatizes Public Science

By Eve Mitchell

Our government is increasingly outsourcing its operations.  The latest is a private deal to run Fera. It's foolish by any standard but it's no April Fools' joke.

Our government is increasingly outsourcing its operations. The latest is a private deal to run Fera. It’s foolish by any standard but its’ no April Fools’ joke.

The UK Government is celebrating April Fool’s Day by selling off another big piece of our national family silver, and the joke is very much on us. Read the full article…

May 7th, 2014

What’s Beyond GMO Contamination?

By David Sánchez

Read “Organic Farmers Pay the Price for Contamination” in English or Spanish.

Felix is an organic farmer in Spain, the country that hosts 90 percent of genetically modified (GM) crops in Europe. He grows grains, alfalfa and vegetables. His organic maize was contaminated by a GM variety, and therefore he lost the organic certification for his 7.7 hectare farm. He lost €14,756 (US$20,585) as a result of the preventive measures he took to avoid contamination in addition to the direct loss of being forced to sell his harvest in the conventional markets. According to the Spanish law, he has no one to blame, so cannot claim for damages. 

Tom is an organic farmer in the U.S., a country where 90 percent of soy and 93 percent of maize area is planted with GM varieties. He grows maize and is forced to take many measures to prevent contamination: planting buffer strips, delaying planting or performing extra tests, with median annual costs up to US$8,000 (€5,735). One year his maize was contaminated by a GM variety, and the buyer rejected his load, with a median loss in that season of US$4,500 (€3,226). He has no one to blame for the damage either.

The first story was reported by Greenpeace a few years ago. It just shows the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the reality of GM cultivation in Spain. The second could be the story of any of the organic farmers surveyed by Food & Water Watch and OFARM earlier this year, just released in Europe in (available in English and in Spanish).

The stories of organic and GM-free farmers in both countries are extremely similar. They’ve been forced to abandon organic cultivation of crops where there is a GM variety, incur additional labour costs and economic damages, faced financial insecurity and experienced strained relations between neighbours—without any legal protections. Clearly, what the U.S. Government, the European Commission and the industry call “coexistence” simply mean imposing GM crops. 

Nevertheless, there is one important difference: the EU only allows the cultivation of one GM maize variety so far. But the reality of European small-scale agriculture shows that the situations in those countries that allow GM cultivation (Spain, Portugal or the Czech Republic) are already too serious to be ignored. And this is something the European Commission should keep in mind when deciding whether or not to approve a new GM crop, a maize engineered by Pioneer to kill insects and resist herbicides.

We have mounting scientific evidence on the right way to create a food system to achieve sustainability and social justice goals. And the European Commission will have to decide whom do they want to stand for. Will they stand for Felix and the organic farmers, a growing sector that creates employment and puts new energies in rural areas? Or will they stand for Pioneer, Monsanto and Syngenta, who are lobbying hard to get their GM crops approved in Europe? The answer will be coming soon.

Tell the European Food Safety Authority: If it’s dangerous you want less NOT more!

What’s Beyond GMO Contamination?

By David Sánchez

GMOContam_BlogThumbFelix is an organic farmer in Spain, the country that hosts 90 percent of genetically modified (GM) crops in Europe. He grows grains, alfalfa and vegetables. His organic maize was contaminated by a GM variety, and therefore he lost the organic certification for his 7.7 hectare farm. He lost €14,756 (US$20,585) as a result of the preventive measures he took to avoid contamination in addition to the direct loss of being forced to sell his harvest in the conventional markets. According to the Spanish law, he has no one to blame, so cannot claim for damages. 

Read “Organic Farmers Pay the Price for Contamination” in English or Spanish.

Tom is an organic farmer in the U.S., a country where 90 percent of soy and 93 percent of maize area is planted with GM varieties. He grows maize and is forced to take many measures to prevent contamination: planting buffer strips, delaying planting or performing extra tests, with median annual costs up to US$8,000 (€5,735). One year his maize was contaminated by a GM variety, and the buyer rejected his load, with a median loss in that season of US$4,500 (€3,226). He has no one to blame for the damage either.

The first story was reported by Greenpeace a few years ago. It just shows the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the reality of GM cultivation in Spain. The second could be the story of any of the organic farmers surveyed by Food & Water Watch and OFARM earlier this year, just released in Europe in (available in English and in Spanish).

The stories of organic and GM-free farmers in both countries are extremely similar. They’ve been forced to abandon organic cultivation of crops where there is a GM variety, incur additional labour costs and economic damages, faced financial insecurity and experienced strained relations between neighbours—without any legal protections. Clearly, what the U.S. Government, the European Commission and the industry call “coexistence” simply mean imposing GM crops. 

Nevertheless, there is one important difference: the EU only allows the cultivation of one GM maize variety so far. But the reality of European small-scale agriculture shows that the situations in those countries that allow GM cultivation (Spain, Portugal or the Czech Republic) are already too serious to be ignored. And this is something the European Commission should keep in mind when deciding whether or not to approve a new GM crop, a maize engineered by Pioneer to kill insects and resist herbicides.

We have mounting scientific evidence on the right way to create a food system to achieve sustainability and social justice goals. And the European Commission will have to decide whom do they want to stand for. Will they stand for Felix and the organic farmers, a growing sector that creates employment and puts new energies in rural areas? Or will they stand for Pioneer, Monsanto and Syngenta, who are lobbying hard to get their GM crops approved in Europe? The answer will be coming soon.

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