Ecological farming – farming for the future

Agroforestry plot with walnut and vegetables in the south of France. Ecological farming bans the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and plastics, and can ensure environmentally sustainable food production that also helps farmers make a living.

 

For most of us, farming conjures up images of green fields, cute little farmhouses and fluffy sheep. The reality couldn’t be more different.

Vast tracts of our countryside have been taken over by intensively farmed monocultures that depend on the heavy use of machinery and chemicals in pesticides and fertilisers. Wheat, barley and maize are the three plants most widely cultivated in Europe.

Industrial agriculture is depleting natural resources and leading to water pollution, soil degradation and diseases, and is fuelling climate change.  

Meanwhile, the number of farmers in the EU continues to fall, leaving farming and food production in the hands of fewer and fewer companies.

The American nightmare

Countries outside the EU, such as the US and Argentina, have pushed the industrial agriculture model to the extreme and are growing genetically modified (GM) crops. Most GM crops are engineered to resist pesticides, sold by the same companies. Experience in these countries shows that this has further exacerbated environmental, health and social problems. It has led to:

  • even greater use of chemical pesticides to fight weeds and pests;
  • catastrophic loss of wild plant and animal life;       
  • serious human illnesses linked to the use of pesticides;
  • spiralling costs for small-scale farmers who are increasingly dependent on patented seeds, pesticides and synthetic fertilisers, driving all but the largest companies out of business.

Beyond these serious impacts, we still don’t know if GM crops are safe to eat. There are hardly any independent long-term studies on their health impacts. The main reason for this is that research is largely dependent on funding from biotech multinationals.

For now, the EU has largely resisted the temptation to go down this path. Only one GM crop, a maize sold by US company Monsanto, is currently grown in the EU. Only 0.1 per cent of the EU’s farmland is used to grow GM crops, compared to 5.7 per cent for organic farming (NB: the calculations of the percentages are based on figures published by the ISAAA and Eurostat. Click on the links for more information). This makes the EU similar to most of the world’s regions – excluding the Americas – where farmers overwhelmingly grow conventional crops.

The future of farming

Greenpeace is campaigning to end the devastating impacts of industrial agriculture and GM crops. We are working to reduce the use of harmful chemical pesticides and to promote a broad shift towards ecological farming practices.

Industrial agriculture and GM crops are not a necessary evil to help feed the world. In fact, their effects on natural resources and the environment are the greatest threat to our ability to feed ourselves in the future.

Ecological farming can instead ensure environmentally sustainable food production that also helps farmers make a living. It coexists with wildlife, protects soils, water and the climate. And it guards against corporate control of food production by powerful multinationals.

Only healthy food from healthy farming can feed us today and for generations to come.

The latest updates

 

Joint letter on changes to EU decision-making concerning health, agriculture and food

Publication | February 13, 2017 at 13:18

Five environmental, health and agriculture organisations (Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace, HEAL, IFOAM EU and Pesticide Action Network Europe) wrote to EU Commission President Juncker to propose ways to improve the EU decision-making...

The EU glyphosate timeline

Publication | February 8, 2017 at 5:52

Campaigners and activists met in Brussels and other European cities (Madrid, Rome, Berlin and Paris) today to launch a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) to ban glyphosate, reform the EU pesticide approval process, and set mandatory targets to...

Commission prepares to authorise three GM maize varieties

Publication | January 24, 2017 at 14:43

Brussels - The European Commission and a handful of EU governments want Europe to grow more genetically modified (GM) crops. In the coming months, they want to authorise the cultivation of two GM maize varieties (DuPont Pioneer’s 1507 and...

Joint NGO letter to Commissioner Andriukaitis on bee-harming pesticides

Publication | December 5, 2016 at 15:42

In a letter sent today, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network Europe and Bee Life asked EU health Commissioner Andriukaitis to end the EU licences for these four pesticides (imidacloprid, clothianidin, fipronil and thiamethoxam) without delay.

CETA spin unspun

Publication | October 26, 2016 at 15:05

Resistance to the EU-Canada trade deal, CETA, in Belgium and on the streets of Europe has shone a spotlight on concerns over Europe’s trade policy. In their efforts to promote CETA to the public, some politicians are resorting to half-truths,...

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