A healthy common agricultural policy (CAP) is very relevant in the context of tackling chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs). That is why the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) and the European Public Health & Agriculture Consortium (EPHAC) - along with more than 250 NGOs - have signed up to an open letter from civil society calling for a public health & environmental friendly CAP reform. This should be a wake-up call for all members of the European Parliament.
Why is the common agricultural policy (CAP) especially important for the public health community?
NCDs pose one of the greatest threats to public health and economic growth, which in turn threatens to bankrupt our healthcare budget.
Globally, obesity, cardiovascular diseases (CVD), cancer and diabetes are responsible for 35 million deaths and 60% of all deaths every year . Diet is one of the major modifiable risk factors for NCDs. So, reducing tobacco use and improving population diets play a crucial role in preventing diet-related NCDs .
A public health friendly common agriculture policy
We firmly believe that CAP must have the aim of delivering public goods, including public health. It should contribute to preventing chronic disease, reducing health inequalities, producing sufficient nutritious food to feed a growing population and a “greener” agriculture policy that reduces greenhouse gas emissions from food production and transportation.
The common agriculture policy must underpin global and European strategies to address chronic diseases as well as environmental sustainability. Policies supporting the production and consumption of fresh fruit, vegetables, pulses, legumes and whole grain over meat and dairy contribute to chronic disease prevention and the delivery of a more sustainable food system that is also more likely to benefit the environment and global food security.
In addition, we have observed that an attempt has been made by the AGRI Committee to decouple subsidies with tobacco growing. This would allow taxpayers money to pay for a crop that has a devastating impact on public health in the EU. Tobacco use causes 700 000 deaths in the EU every year and has high costs to society in health care and productivity loss. It flies in the face of the European Union’s otherwise strong commitment to tobacco control, as a signatory to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and as witnessed more recently by the adoption of the Tobacco Products Directive.
The main messages of the open letter are the following:
Agricultural Subsidies have driven, and continue to support, unhealthy and environmentally damaging approaches to farming and land management. Subsidies which negatively affect our environment, our health, jobs, developing countries and animal welfare should be abolished.
Civil society is concerned about the way that the current reform of the CAP has been managed by the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI).
The Parliament’s AGRI Committee voted for a position that would de facto kill the greening and take the policy backwards.
In March, the European Parliament will decide upon its final negotiating position and civil society organisations ask all MEPs to grasp this last opportunity and act on behalf of real public interest.
EPHA related articles
 World Health Organisation (2008) 2008-2013 Action Plan for the Global Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Non-communicable Diseases, World Health Organisation, Geneva
 (2007) Foresight: Tackling obesities: Future Choices – Project Report, Government office for science, London, 2nd edition