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Quarter of agricultural land in Europe to be organic by 2030

The European Commission has set a number of new environmental targets, including the reduction of pesticide usage by 50% and the goal of 25% of EU farmland being organic by 2030.

The new measures are part of two new strategies – the biodiversity strategy and the farm to fork strategy – unveiled last week as part of the European Green Deal.

The new biodiversity strategy aims to reduce the unsustainable use of land, the exploitation of natural resources, and the invasion of alien species.

A statement from the European Commission noted that the Covid-19 pandemic had shown that these measures were crucial to “preventing and building resilience to future outbreaks”.

As part of the guidelines, there will be work to restore damaged ecosystems, re-introduce pollinators to agricultural land, reduce pollution, ‘green’ cities, and boost organic farming and other environmentally-friendly farming practices.

At least 30% of Europe’s land and seas will be transformed into “effectively managed protected areas”.

It is estimated that the global population of wild species has fallen by 60% in the last 40 years, with one million species now at risk of extinction.

Executive vice-president of the European Commmission, Frans Timmermans, said the coronavirus crisis “has shown how vulnerable we all are, and how important it is to restore the balance between human activity and nature”.

He added: “Climate change and biodiversity loss are a clear and present danger to humanity. At the heart of the Green Deal the Biodiversity and Farm to Fork strategies point to a new and better balance of nature, food systems and biodiversity; to protect our people’s health and well-being, and at the same time to increase the EU’s competitiveness and resilience. These strategies are a crucial part of the great transition we are embarking upon.”

The European Commission has vowed to “unlock” €20 billion per year, which will include EU funds as well as national and private funding, to promote biodiversity. This, it said, will bring “economic benefits” to local communities, and create “sustainable jobs and growth”.

Running alongside the biodiversity programme, will be the farm to fork strategy, which aims to safeguard food security. The measures, which are intended to reduce the environmental footprint of the European food system, include the reduction of chemical pesticide use by 50%, hazardous pesticide use by 50%, fertiliser use by 20% and nutrient losses by 50% by 2030.

The strategy has also set the goal of 25% agricultural land to be under organic farming by 2030. According to figures from 2018, Europe has 13.8 million hectares of organic farmland, representing 7.7% of the total area of agricultural land.

Both strategies, which have been presented to the European Parliament and the Council for endorsement, aim to strengthen resilience to future pandemics and climate impacts, including forest fires, food insecurity and disease outbreaks, according to the European Commission.

Stella Kyriakides, commissioner for health and food safety, commented: “We must move forward and make the EU’s food system a driving force for sustainability. The Farm to Fork Strategy will make a positive difference across the board in how we produce, buy and consume our food that will benefit the health of our citizens, societies and the environment. It offers the opportunity to reconcile our food systems with our planet’s health, to ensure food security and meet the aspirations of Europeans for healthy, equitable and eco-friendly food.”

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