Brussels, 13 March – The European Public Health & Agriculture Consortium (EPHAC) is disappointed by the European Parliament’s approval of coupling subsidies to tobacco production. Tobacco should not have a place in the 2014-2020 EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). With this move, the European Parliament (EP) wants to inject taxpayer’s money into a toxic crop that causes nearly 700,000 annual deaths (1) in the EU. Today’s vote did very little to fix all that is wrong with the EU agricultural policy and the crucial role it should play in protecting people’s health.
“It is a textbook case of vested interests getting the upper hand in policy making. People living in Europe do not deserve institutions that trip over the same stone and bring back outdated and discarded poor policies. People living in Europe expect their politicians to be able to stand up to narrow interest groups (2) and protect their citizens’ health and well-being," said Monika Kosińska, Secretary General of European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) on behalf of EPHAC.
If Brussels wants to get smart on its reduced 2014-2020 budget, it should concentrate on ensuring that tobacco growers move to economically sustainable crops (3) as part of a new CAP that does not undermine public health.
This move by the EP is a slap in the face of the European Commission’s renewed commitment to tackling smoking in Europe (4) through the Revision of the Tobacco Products Directive. Additionally, subsidising tobacco growing goes against the spirit of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), to which the EU is a signatory.
Tobacco and unhealthy diets are major modifiable risk factors for non-communicable diseases (NCDs). There are many ways in which this CAP can make a difference in Europeans lives - like subsiding healthy food to make it cheaper so low income people can make the move from junk food to a healthy diet.
“The new CAP should not only be thought of as a policy to make Europe’s agriculture sustainable. By putting in the market more and cheaper healthier food, the new CAP would also help European countries tackle the current epidemic of chronic non-communicable diseases, like cancer and heart disease (5),“ added Ms Kosińska. “This range of diseases poses one of the greatest threats to public health and economic growth in Europe. Sick people are not only unable to work, but they also clog up healthcare facilities, which in turn threatens to bankrupt Europe’s healthcare budgets. NCDs weaken Europe’s health and productivity,” said Ms Kosińska.
The new CAP must be designed in a way that erodes the threats that currently undermine public health in Europe. Chronic diseases, health inequalities, an insufficient production of nutritious food and a polluting agricultural sector could have been better tackled had MEPs been more aware of the crucial role played by agriculture is setting the standards of everyone’s well-being. “It is not wishful thinking. Policies supporting the production and consumption of fresh fruit, vegetables, pulses, legumes and whole grain over meat and dairy contribute to tackling chronic disease and limiting the negative impact that agriculture has on climate and global food security,” pointed out Ms Kosińska.
“The ball is now in the European Council’s court (6). People living in Europe believe they have elected politicians bold enough to protect their interests. When landmark decisions such as those on CAP are to be made, this is when leadership is tested,” concluded Ms Kosińska.
(1) Tobacco is the single largest avoidable health risk in the EU, accounting for nearly 700 000 premature deaths each year. Around 50% of smokers die prematurely (on average 14 years earlier).
(2) Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) found that 79% of the organisations lobbying on CAP reform, as listed in the European Transparency Register, are likely to be defending agribusiness interests.
(3) Economically sustainable alternatives to tobacco growing. Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - Fifth session: Seoul, Republic of Korea, 12–17 November 2012.
(4) Tobacco is a major preventable risk factor for cancer and cardiovascular diseases (CVD). Accounting for over 65% of total mortality in the EU, both diseases cause more than 1.2 and 1.9 million annual deaths respectively.
(5) According with the World Health Organisation (WHO), globally, obesity, cardiovascular diseases (CVD), cancer and diabetes are responsible for 35 million deaths and 60% of all deaths every year.
(6) Following the entry of the Lisbon Treaty in 2007, the CAP is, for the first time, decided on equal footing between the EP and the European Council.
Javier Delgado Rivera, Communications Coordinator- +32 2 233 38 76 or email@example.com