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CEJA represented at Rio+20, United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Earlier this month, I got the chance to attend the Rio+20 UN conference on Sustainable Development on behalf of my organisation, CEJA, the European Council of Young Farmers, and as part of the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) delegation, of which CEJA is an associate member.

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Who grows our vegetables?

Who grows our vegetables?

I’ve come about this picture on the internet. It’s been enthousiatically sent around the ‘foody-network’. People that are interested in food, food culture and food production, but they don’t know where there vegetables are grown. Why don’t city people just go and take a look on the countryside?

Photo: Philip van Ierschot

East ~ West; focus on food security vs. focus on competitiveness?

What did the CAP do for agriculture in Eastern Europe? The answer: It did less  than it could have done. While the CAP puts competitiveness as a key issue of agricultural policy, Emil Erjavec states that in many eastern member states foodsecurity is perceived more important, resulting in a “protectionist vs. a liberalist” approach. 

This is a summary of a blogpost titled ‘Why no ‘Green Revolution’ in new member states?’ on by Emil Erjavec. Erjavec is a slovenian expert on agricultural and rural development policy, especially CAP and EU integration. The full post is here on


summarized from a post by: Emil Erjavec

In the period from 2000 to 2012, the eastern region received (according to estimates) more than EUR 20 billion of EU and national funds for agriculture. Most of it went to large projects, often to construction or machines. Generally spoken; technology copied from west Europe for ‘run-of-the-mill’-type projects. Such an approach and extraordinary inflow of funds importantly contributed to raising the competitiveness of a few individual holdings, but not of agriculture at the aggregate level, neither does it significantly contribute to improving the welfare of the rural population.

On the contrary, it widens the differences among the rural population: the EU funds creating a type of ‘new landlords’ who then tend to take ownership as well as the political initiative. Other adverse effects of the funds are: a focus (on all levels: from national to organizations to individuals) on how to get the funds instead of on how to improve agriculture.

Not many analyses of macroeconomic effects are available at the level of the entire region, only some partial analyses, which, however, expose problems in programming and implementing this policy.

To exaggerate a bit, these countries transposed from the Western Europe the democratic interest-lobbyist manner of organising agricultural interests, but almost completely failed to transpose a comparable European public system of knowledge transfer. There was also no systematic support from the European government or non-governmental organisations for these functions.

Rural development policy is seen as a tool for the redistribution of funds in agriculture: only important in order to achieve the greatest possible absorption of the EU funds and satisfy well-organised interest groups. The quality aspect and the actual meeting of the strategic goals of rural development policy  only come second. There is a critical lack of vision for a sustainable development of agriculture which would be based on an integrated view of the situation and its development opportunities.

The deficiencies in programming thus further lead to inefficient implementation of measures. Overcome by fear of failure to meet the EU criteria and of fraud; administrators design extremely complicated implementation systems which are not friendly to beneficiaries, but on the contrary, narrow the circle of applicants.

The European Commission is not of great help here. It is sceptical about investment in both small and very large farms. It always targets the centre of the structure, the medium family farms which are, however, very rare in Central and Eastern Europe. By its approach, the European Commission no doubt contributes to the inefficiency of rural development policy in the new Member States, in terms of competitiveness. Its main goal is that the programmes are implemented and that the funds are used, in line with the legislation.

Under-development of a public research and extension network significantly affects the efficiency of support aimed at raising competitiveness. Rather than engage in technological development, the developing agricultural science largely prefers to engage in basic research in applied biology and biotechnology, the sciences where national and international projects can be won but which are not directly useable in knowledge formation and transfer for agriculture.

Finally, the perception and the concept of agricultural policy in these countries are, in many ways, quite specific. Neither competitiveness, nor environment are deemed key issues. Apart from the countries with a relatively liberalist attitude to agriculture, such as the Czech Republic and Latvia, the protectionist attitude prevails in most other countries, placing an emphasis on production and national food security.

The result of applying CAP in Eastern member states: Although structural indicators of agriculture have been mostly trending upward since  accession, they still reveal the low value-added of agriculture, a lag behind in productivity, unused production potential, and growing negative social trends.

The author also proposes solutions, mainly support for better policy at EU and national levels. (read the solutions in the full post)

Also read: 

“East – West” is a recurrent theme in It is about diverse regions in Europa and one common policy for agriculture. 



This week food security is in the political limelight: on the 17th&18th of May there will be a #G20 summit in Mexico and on the 18th&19th Obama has put Foodsecurity on the agenda of The G8 Camp David Summit 2012 (”
The Road to Recovery”)

So, it’s a good week to focus the FoodPoliticsEu debate. Warming up, I’m proud to present the transcripted YFM-NAJK videoblog on #FoodSecurity:



Dutch Green Party hosts meeting on food politics


– By Janno Lanjouw

Last week Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout (GreenLeft, member of the European Green Party) hosted a day of discussion and presentations on his party’s new campaign on food issues in Brussels. The ‘Boss of your plate’ (Dutch) campaign looks to make a positive change in the food system without being pedantic. ‘We want to be positive and inclusive.’

Currently, not many political parties address food as a major topic in its own right. GroenLinks (GreenLeft) now attempts to step in the vacuum with a campaign on current food issues. ‘Food is an important topic as it concerns that certain value of what we ingest daily. And there is a lot going on at the moment, too. Issues of climate change and all kinds of environmental issues, energy, development aid, free trade and more – it is all related to food and food policy. Also, the coming reform of the Common Agricultural Policy requires us to take a look at the system of subsidies and levy’s we currently impose on the European food market,’ explained Eickhout.

During a short debate a representative of Unilever and LTO, the Dutch employers organization for Agriculture and Horticulture discussed the importance of a more sustainable food system as a political issue. These are not your usual suspects on a green party campaign celebration. Eickhout explained he thinks the campaign intends to include as many stakeholders as necessary to make actual chance. ‘Even if we do not agree on the exact way to get there, the destination is clear.’

The campaign might be seen as political result of the growing public interest in sustainable food. This was exemplified by the strong delegation of the Dutch Youth Food Movement that was present. These young activists labour for a more sustainable food system as part of the Slow Food Youth Network.

Hopefully, one does not have to tell the readers of about the importance of food as political issue. It actually seems strange that no other political parties (at least not in the Netherlands) seem to be that much concerned with food as a political topic. It is therefore hopeful that GreenLeft has started this campaign, although the party admitted that, in the light of coming elections, the focus on food might be less than intended. Unfortunately, however you might spin it, sustainable food is just not (yet) bound to get you a lot of votes.

Petition for a fair and ecological agrarian policy for the EU



Last week, SFYN (Slow Food Youth Network, the European umbrella organization for the young Slow Food members) launched a petition on petion site The petition aims to collect 500.000 signatures ‘for a fair and ecological agrarian policy for the EU’. The petition was initiated by Greek SFYN leader Pavlos Georgiadis, and it brings about five core values SFYN thinks in every future CAP scenario should be given priority.

The issues are:

Sustainability: It must be embraced as the core value of the new CAP. Our food system must produce sufficient, healthy and nutritious food, while drastically reducing its carbon footprint, and regenerating rather than degrading our landscapes and natural resources, especially topsoil and water.

Youth: We must invest in getting young people involved in food production, and in assisting them to build strong connections between rural and urban communities. The CAP must allocate money to training programs that allow young farmers to adopt innovative and environmentally friendly agricultural techniques.

Biodiversity: The CAP must promote biodiverse and ecologically functional production, instead of supporting energy-intensive, patent-protected crops and industrial monocultures. Diversity must be nurtured from farm to fork through the support of conservers and breeders of varieties that can be re-sown.

Research: It is required to understand how traditional knowledge and modern techniques can be integrated to develop innovative, environmentally sound agricultural practices. This can be realized by funding projects that explore the potential of diverse and locally adapted production systems, such as agroecology, agroforestry, saline agriculture and permaculture.

Meat & dairy: Given the problems related to the production of meat and dairy, the CAP must include plans to gradually decrease funds allocated to industrial meat and dairy production, and to promote a transition from the production of animal to vegetable protein in the long term. Measures should be taken in support of operations which respect animal welfare, conserve water and other resources, while reducing carbon emissions.

These issues are the same issues that form the core argument for the CAP2013: Food for Change campaign. This campaign aims to introduce consumers to the debate on the CAP reform. Given the fact that the current debate is a rather technical one, a lot of basic knowledge is needed to fully grasp what the possibilities and consequences of the 2013 reform will entail. Therefore, the petition tries to keep the issues simple and understandable, while stressing that sustainability and innovation should lay at the core of an European agricultural policy, rather than productivity growth.

With 500,000 signatures, the petition will be delivered to the President of the European Parlement, the President of the European Commission and the Members of the European Parlement, as well as the leaders of the European Member states.