Brussels, 26 March 2013

Dear Ministers,

On March 19, 2013 at the AGRIFISH Council meeting in Brussels, you agreed on the Council negotiating position on the common agricultural policy (CAP) – on direct payments, single common market organisation, rural development and cross compliance.

While fully appreciating the efforts made by the Council to enter into negotiations with the European Parliament on these important issues, we, the European Public Health and Agriculture Consortium (EPHAC), a Brussels‐based alliance of civil society and public health organisations advocating for a healthy, sustainable CAP (1), ask you to make sure your debates fully take into account farming and food policy’s contribution to such public goods as health, sustainability and equity.

We urge you to follow these recommendations during the upcoming negotiations with the European Parliament to make sure that the common agriculture policy includes access to healthy diets, improves policy coherence and promotes sustainable production and consumption as part of a coherent strategy to address inequalities in health.

The policy should also:

  • REJECT the possibility of giving financial support to tobacco - the Council has now a window of opportunity to correct the most unfortunate decision made by the European Parliament on approving the re-coupling of subsidies to tobacco production, which was phased out at the end 2010 (2). The re-introduction of such supports to tobacco would be a step backwards and sits awkwardly with the renewed commitment by the European Commission through the Revision of the Tobacco Products Directive.
  • REJECT planting quotas on wine production. Europe is producing far more wine than it consumes and domestic production is falling, despite the fact that the EU is the heaviest drinking region in the world (3). For the European Union to spend tax payers money to support an industry that is clearly not in demand is perplexing.
  • ENSURE that children get to eat healthily , with the school fruit scheme promoting positive eating habits from an early age.
  • REINTRODUCE requirements for farmers to comply with EU laws on the environment, food safety, animal and public health when receiving EU subsidies.
  • SUPPORT short food chains which would be beneficial from a food security and public health point of view.
  • SUPPORT action on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in animal medicine, where over-prescribing and inappropriate use also contributes to the growing incidence of AMR.

Agricultural policies have a crucial role to play in ensuring people are provided with affordable and healthy options. In part of a broader context, it is also essential that they are consistent with other policies that seek to reduce alcohol and tobacco consumption. An integrated common agriculture policy can move populations in a healthier, more sustainable direction, decreasing their consumption of alcohol, reducing consumption of tobacco as well as encouraging them to eat more fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains. This will be a breakthrough in ensuring the CAP is a coherent part of an EU overall political strategy (Europe2020: smart, sustainable and inclusive growth), that achieves EU policy objectives for the environment, public health, and development.

Yours sincerely,



(1) European Public Health and Agriculture Consortium (EPHAC) is a Brussels based alliance of public health organisations advocating for a healthier, more sustainable common agricultural policy (CAP). EPHAC members are European Alcohol Policy Alliance, European Heart Network, European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), EuroHealthNet, Heart of Mersey, National Heart Forum, North West Health Brussels Office and Sustain.

(2) 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. 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). 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) Alcohol is the number one risk factor for bad health and premature death amongst 25-59 year olds, a core of the working age population. Alcohol is attributable to some 60 diseases including cancer and cardiovascular diseases, the social cost of alcohol is estimated to be at least €155.8 billion a year.

(4) Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a natural phenomenon resulting from the use of antimicrobials to treat infections. In 2011, the European Commission stated that 25 000 patients die annually as a result of infections caused by bacteria that exhibit AMR.

- Open Letter to EU Ministers of Agriculture and Rural Development

- The open letter is also available on the EPHAC website here

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Last modified on April 7 2013.