Save Bees and Farmers – European Citizens Initiative

By James O’Donovan

Day by day, the biological diversity that underpins our food systems is disappearing – putting the future of our food, livelihoods, health and climate under increasing strain.

Disastrous effects of pesticide use

The Save Bees and Farmers campaign states that:

“the consequences for nature of pesticide use are disastrous: bees, butterflies and other insects are vanishing from our landscapes and previously widespread birds have stopped singing in our fields. Our streams and rivers are being polluted and we are exposed to a daily cocktail of synthetic pesticides through our food”.

The very survival of farming communities in Europe is equally threatened by industrial agriculture. Over the past ten years, on average, one farm goes out of business every three minutes! True to the motto “Grow or Die”, more and more land is being managed by an ever-smaller number of businesses, focussing on yields and sales rather than on food quality and maintaining the environment for future generations.  With the disappearance of small farms, Europe’s rural areas lose their people and  their cultural heritage.

A different agricultural model is possible

‘Save Bees and Farmers’ is a European Citizens’ Initiative which aims to become a catalyst for the transformation of agriculture, towards a model that is based on agro-ecological principles that promote biodiversity.  This includes a broad range of approaches including conservation agriculture, ecological farming, and the emerging veganic agriculture movement.

The solution is an agriculture that is able to thrive without toxic chemicals; an agriculture that relies on biodiversity and climate-friendly farming methods that will ensure the adequate and healthy nutrition of people; an agriculture that preserves the invaluable diversity of natural environments in Europe while transitioning towards a predominantly organic plant based food system as advocated by the EAT-Lancet Report and the dietary recommendations of the WHO. 

Current agricultural reforms

The EU itself recognizes that the need for pesticides can be decreased through sustainable agricultural practices.  The European Commission’s 2020 Farm to Fork and Biodiversity Strategies both call for a “50% reduction in the overall use of – and risk from – chemical pesticides by 2030”.  But the goals of both of these strategies are not reflected in the recently approved Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) which fails to make the reduction of pesticide use a condition of payment of subsidies.

In Ireland 2,651.4 tonnes of synthetic pesticides were used in 2018, and Ireland has only 2.6% of its agricultural land devoted to organic agriculture compared to an EU average of 7.5%.  Over 30 water supplies in multiple Irish counties had pesticide levels that exceeded health guidelines in 2020.

Save Bees and Farmers Campaign

The Save Bees and Farmers Campaign believes that phasing-out synthetic pesticides is the strongest lever for the transition from the current input-intensive agricultural model to a biodiversity-enhancing model based on natural cycles.

Phasing out pesticides in 15 years represents an ambitious challenge. The transition of our agricultural model towards an agro-ecological approach represents a challenge to all stakeholders, especially farmers, but with strong political will the transition is possible.

How can EU citizens influence the Common Agricultural Policy?

The ECI (European Citizens’ Initiative) is a 2007 EU mechanism aimed at increasing direct democracy by enabling “EU citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies”.  The initiative enables one million people from the EU from at least one quarter (seven) of the member states, to call directly on the EU Commission to propose new legislation (for example a new Directive or Regulation).

The “Save Bees and Farmers!” ECI

This ECI demands an agricultural policy that saves bees and farmers with the following demands:

  1. The phasing-out of the use of synthetic pesticides by 2035.
  2. The restoration of habitats, and for agricultural areas to support biodiversity recovery.
  3. The provision of supports for farmers to make a transition to small, diverse and sustainable farms. 

This ECI is supported by a growing network of over 140 environmental NGOs, farmer and beekeeper organisations, charitable foundations and scientific institutions working together to reduce the health and biodiversity impacts of agriculture.

If you are an EU Citizen please consider siging this petition.  Please help us to reach the goal of one million signatures by June 30, 2021.  Every signature counts.  You can find further information and sign the ECI on this page.

If you are a member of an organisation that would like to encourage others to join this campaign please email info@savebeesandfarmers.eu