28th Sep 2023


The Big Agri lobby and the EPP threaten to destroy Green Deal

  • The environmental catastrophe is so urgent, eventually even the EPP should realise they need to stop sawing off the branch we're all sitting on (Photo: Johannes Plenio)
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It's quite simple: if you destroy something, you have to fix it. But what every kindergarten child already understands is falling on deaf ears among the largest political group in the European Parliament — the centre-right European People's Party.

Over the last decades we have depleted 70 percent of soils, drastically increased the desertification of farmland, and put more than 80 percent of natural habitats in "poor condition" in Europe. Clean water and air, food security, and protection against natural disasters heavily rely on healthy and rich biodiversity on our continent.

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EU agricultural policy has perverted farming, turning it into a colossal endeavour of mass production. Under pressure from the agri-industry lobbies, farmers have been forced to over-produce cheaply at the expense of nature. Now, more than ever, they urgently need new rules to protect their soils, for healthy forests, rivers and meadows for abundant and diverse ecosystems. That is their livelihood.

The logic of relentless exploitation of nature harms all of us.

Broken ecosystems exacerbate the impact of climate change. In southern Spain, the soils are rock hard, with temperatures exceeding 40 degrees already this week, making normal agriculture impossible. In France, water needs to be rationed, and the fertile plains of northern Italy are drying up.

As elected representatives of the people in Europe, we have a responsibility to legislate and develop laws that improve the living conditions of all people and ensure sustainable foundations for our economy and society.

Time to fix nature, right?

That's how 3,300 scientists, hundreds of companies and NGOs, and the EU's environment ministers see it. They all recognise the essential importance of restoring nature, and that is why they have come out in support of the Nature Restoration Law proposed by the EU Commission, and currently up for a vote in the EU Parliament.

The uniqueness of this law is that it benefits everyone: farmers, fishers, and all citizens.

The twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss urgently require an integrated response that weaves together climate adaptation, nature restoration, and growing social inequality.

This piece of legislation has the potential to radically strengthen climate resilience ensuring a liveable future for the generations to come.

Europe's farmers have long been victims of insufficient nature protection, and are becoming victims of political power games.

Copa-Cogeca, the ostensible "voice of Europe's farmers" which acts primarily in the interest of agribusiness and large-scale farms, along with the far-right and the EPP group, have increasingly isolated themselves in recent weeks. With a toxic cocktail of fear-mongering, lies, and manipulation, they are hell-bent on sabotaging the nature restoration law, and EU climate action more generally.

The EPP are manoeuvring into a position against the EU Commission, against EU member states, against 3,300 scientists, and against reason. Needless to say that the blockade is a tactical manoeuvre.

Opposing the Nature Restoration law is part of the strategy of Conservatives in the EU which frames climate protection as a burden for farmers, sexual and reproductive rights as a threat to traditional family structures, and where "European values" have to be protected from people on the move by keeping them out by all means. Conservatives are trying to assert their position by adopting the slogans of right-wing populists, nationalists and even fascists.

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen must come out of hiding and defend the nature restoration law as the basis for the Green Deal against attacks from within her own party ranks.

This cannot be reduced to political calculation and point-scoring. It's about the future of our planet. The urgency of this moment should eventually become clear even to the EPP so they stop sawing off the branch we're all sitting on.

Author bio

Silvia Modig is a Finnish MEP and coordinator for The Left Group in the environment committee.


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.


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