A motion drafted by a British MEP to highlight the role of agricultural technologies in moving towards a more sustainable farming industry in Europe has been adopted by the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee. It will be debated by the full Parliament next week.
The motion - Technical solutions for sustainable agriculture - drafted by West Midland Region MEP Anthea McIntyre is strongly supported by the Agri-Food Chain Coalition (AFCC) of EU industry trade associations. Key issues and challenges addressed by the report include precision farming, big data and informatics, soil, water and nutrient management, as well as precision breeding.
The motion opens with agriculture’s central role in providing the estimated 60%-110% increase in foodstuffs required to feed the world by 2050, as well as its growing role in supplying the raw materials for “green chemistry”. At the same time, there is pressure to reduce energy use across the agri-food chain.
The motion calls upon the Parliament to support precision farming technologies and the associated development of ‘big data ‘ and informatics; to seek better soil, water and nutrient management to reduce the need for pesticides, fertilisers and water use and cut soil erosion; and to safeguard genetic diversity, while supporting the use of precision breeding technologies in crop and livestock farming. All this will be helped by a longer term approach to EU R&D funding in these fields, and a revitalisation of agricultural education and training across Europe to make the sector more attractive to new entrants.
It also calls for an urgent review of the EU regulatory framework for plant protection products, particularly the need for a scientifically robust assessment and approval process that results in cost effective, safe to use and environmentally friendly products.
“The EU and the member states, academia and industry including breeders, the agro-chemicals sector, farmers and food manufacturers, must all work together to improve the translation of research into practice, from lab to farm to fork. This will allow Europe to unlock a new phase in agricultural innovation,” the motion concludes.
The AFCC has welcomed Ms McIntyre’s motion, calling for consistent EU policies to unlock the potential of innovation in Europe’s agri-food sectors if it is to maintain its position as a world leader. “This is a very important report at a time of a deep farming crisis with low commodity prices. Strengthening innovation is key to improving the situation of farmers, agricultural input industries, traders and food companies alike,” comments Garlich v Essen, chair of the AFCC.
“This report finally establishes new technologies as crucial tools that can help to assure competitiveness and drive sustainability. What we need to do is bringing it to life with corresponding strategic policy initiatives and to embed the innovation principle firmly in the EU’s future regulatory approach.”
Addressing the AFCC this week, Ms McIntyre stressed that an innovation-friendly and supportive political and regulatory environment in Europe would drive competitiveness, economic growth and jobs. “Innovation and sustainability are mutually supportive rather than competing policy objectives,” she concluded.