Greening the Common Agricultural Policy

Written evidence submitted by the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (abc) (GCAP 16)

In response to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s call for evidence, abc has prepared the following submission that outlines abc’s views in terms of the recent proposals set out for CAP reform by the European Commission.

The views expressed in this submission are those of abc - the umbrella organisation for the agricultural biotechnology industry in the UK. abc, comprising of six member companies, works with the food chain and research community to invest in a broad range of crop technologies – including conventional and advanced breeding techniques, such as GM.  These are designed to improve agricultural productivity by tackling challenges such as pests, diseases and changing climatic conditions whilst reducing water usage, greenhouse gas emissions and other inputs.

1. Executive Summary

1.1. abc believes it is essential that the reformed CAP delivers on the EU 2020 commitments by making agriculture more innovative and competitive, while managing its environmental impacts.

1.2. Innovation in agricultural biotechnology offers Europe the potential to accelerate this transition to a more sustainable growth model while also developing a globally competitive sector capable of generating more jobs.

1.3. UK farmers must also be given the choice to use all of the existing tools available to help them produce more food and remain globally competitive. Access to innovative biotechnology, such as GM, can help them to deliver increased yields while reducing the carbon footprint of food production.

1.4. This submission does not respond to the question of the desirability of green direct payments, as this falls outside the scope of abc’s work, but we address the wider question of the role of agricultural technologies in greening the CAP.


2.1. As summarised by Paolo de Castro MEP, Chair of the EU Agriculture Committee, the challenge of reforming the CAP is for European Agriculture to ‘produce more, pollute less’.

2.2. European farmers currently meet some of the highest standards in the world on food traceability, environmental protections and animal welfare. [1]

2.3. Yet, while the OECD-FAO Outlook sees the US, Canada, Australia, China, India, Russia and Latin America boosting farm output by 15-40 per cent between 2010 and 2019, it forecasts that EU production will grow by less than 4 per cent. [2]

2.4. Europe therefore currently utilises 30.4 million hectares (the size of Germany) outside its borders to meet its own needs. [3]

2.5. Unless CAP reform seeks to encourage agricultural innovations which increase yields whilst managing inputs, Europe will continue to be reliant on imports from countries with less stringent environmental standards. This will undermine attempts to ‘green’ the CAP.

2.6. abc therefore welcomes key elements of the CAP reform set out by the European Commission which focus on encouraging Innovation Partnerships and agri-environment initiatives, as outlined below.

3. Proposals for Innovation Partnerships

3.1. abc welcomes the proposal outlined by the European Commission for additional investment in research and innovation via the introduction of European Innovation Partnerships to help improve links between researchers, farmers and advisors.

3.1.1. ‘To produce more, with less, and better, the Commission is proposing to double the budget for agricultural research and innovation, including through a new European Innovation Partnership. These funds will support research projects relevant to farmers, encourage closer cooperation between scientists and farmers and the quicker transfer of positive results from the laboratory to the field, and provide better information and advice to farmers.’ [4]

3.2. It is essential that this funding takes account of the benefits of GM technology in helping farmers to increase their yields and productivity in a sustainable way. For example:

§ Crop yields can be increased by 6% - 30% on the same amount of land using GM technology. [5]

§ Fuel use and CO2 emissions can be decreased thanks to less tillage, which also results in enhanced soil quality and lower levels of soil erosion.v

§ Insect damage to crops is decreased with pest resistant crops, significantly reducing the need for spraying.v

§ In 2010, GM cultivation led to global emissions reductions of 18 billion kg of CO2, equivalent to 8 million fewer cars on the road for one year.v

3.3. Investment in a combination of conventional plant breeding and GM has seen the rate of yield increase in North America greatly exceed yield gains in Europe over the last 15 years:

§ In the UK the rate of increase in rapeseed yields since 1995 has been around 0.5% per year, in contrast Canada has seen rapeseed yields increase at more than 3% per

§ Average yields of maize in France have gone from one tonne per hectare more than the USA in 2000 to one tonne less than the USA in

§ Between 1996 and 2009, 229 million tonnes of additional food, feed and fibre were produced globally thanks to GM crops. Without this GM technology, an additional 75 million hectares of conventional crops would have been required to produce the same tonnage. [6]

3.4. Europe is therefore failing to maximise rural incomes and competitiveness, using more land and resources then necessary to grow crops and is continuing to erode the industrial R&D base which is required to catch up with global competitors and be responsive to climate change.

3.5. In addition to extra investment in innovation by the European Commission abc would therefore also welcome proposals to reform the regulatory environment to encourage greater private investment in GM technology.

4. Proposals for agri-environmental initiatives

4.1. abc also welcomes the European Commission’s proposals to encourage agri-environmental initiatives:

4.1.1. ‘The specificities of each territory should be taken into account and environmental initiatives will be encouraged at national, regional and local level. For this, the Commission is proposing two specific Rural Development policy priorities for restoring, preserving and enhancing ecosystems and for resource efficiency & the fight against climate change.’ [7]

4.2. GM technology has an important role to play in terms of increasing the resource efficiency of agriculture, and helping farmers to adapt to a changing climate:

§ Pest-resistant GM crops are already providing stable food and commodity supplies and in the future crops suited to climate change adaptation will play a crucial role in helping farmers cope.

§ Research is underway to develop drought tolerant crops, such as maize, which can maintain and even increase crop yields despite changes in water supply.  These varieties could produce 2 million more tonnes of food under moderate drought conditions. [8]

§ GM crops can also protect soils from erosion and compaction through less ploughing and tilling, conserving soil moisture in the process.

§ Insect damage to crops is decreased with pest resistant crops, significantly reducing the need for spraying.

4.3. It is therefore important to give UK farmers access to the full range of technological innovations and tools currently available to farmers outside of the European Union.

4.4. However, the current regulatory system of approval for GM technologies in Europe is not functioning. The delays in authorising GM crops deemed to be safe by European scientists of the European Food Safety Authority has made it difficult for farmers to access these crops. [9] Nevertheless, where GM crops are permitted and respond to challenges farmers face, such as maize resistant to the European Corn Borer (ECB) in Spain, their hectarage is increasing year by year. [10]

4.5. To date only two products have been approved for use in Europe and many other products have waited for years for approval or otherwise due to political interference in what should be a science based assessment process. [11]

5. Other areas to consider in ’greening’ the CAP

5.1. abc believes that the CAP should be more specific in incentivising agricultural practices, sectors and technologies to ensure that CAP reform will effectively contribute to the objectives of President Barroso’s EU 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.

5.2. The challenges of feeding a growing population, using finite resources, mitigating climate change and encouraging innovation require a common effort from policy makers and industry.

5.3. Agricultural innovation and biotechnology research both have a role to play to increase resource efficiency in the agricultural sector. Moreover, such biotechnological advances can benefit Europe’s farmers and rural economies, and bring new business and job opportunities, which are essential if Europe is to become more competitive and more self-sufficient.

5.4. EU farmers and agricultural biotechnology companies are already committed to playing an active and positive role in protecting the environment and tackling climate change, and they should be given access to the best tools, technologies and support measures to enable them to do so.

5.5. abc is calling on the UK Government to continue to proactively work with its European partners to ensure that the reformed CAP delivers on the EU 2020 commitments and helps to make UK agriculture more innovative and competitive.

16 November 2011

[1] The Future of CAP after 2013, COPA & COGECA, 2011

[2] OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2011-12, OECD 2011,

[3] Harald von Witzke and Steffen Noleppa ; ‘EU agricultural production and trade: Can more efficiency prevent increasing ‘land-grabbing’ outside of Europe ?’ s /Final_Report_Humboldt_Opera.pdf

[4] European Commission, ‘The European Commission proposes a new partnership between Europe and the farmers’ Press release, Oct 2011,

[5] Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2010,

[6] Brookes, G & Barfoot P, (2011) PG Economics Ltd; ‘GM crops: global socio-economic and environmental impacts 1996-2009’,-profitable-and-productive-agriculture-continues-to-be-boosted-by-the-contribution-of-biotech-crops

[7] European Commission, ‘The European Commission proposes a new partnership between Europe and the farmers’ Press release, Oct 2011,

[8] The drought tolerant maize for Africa initiative, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre / International Institute of Tropical Agriculture,

[9] Evaluation of the EU legislative framework in the field of GM food and feed, European Commission July 2010 (Published Oct 2011), http://ec.eur o

[10] Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2010,

[11] EuropaBio ; ‘Approvals of GMOs in the European Union’, r icultural/positions/approvals-gmos-european-union

Prepared 30th November 2011