The letter, entiled ’Reform of DG Agriculture advisory group system’ is signed by BirdLife International Europe; Friends of the Earth Europe; European Environmental Bureau; European Public Health Alliance (EPHA); Slow Food; Arc2020; Eurogroup for Animals; Pesticides Action Network; IFOAM EU Group; Europarc Federation; EuroCoop; CEO; Greenpeace, and Transport and Environment.

Background reading on the EC Advisory (aka Expert) Groups can be found at the Corporate Europe’s Observatory (CEO) website: Positive reforms in DG Agriculture’s Advisory Groups could be derailed if industrial farming gets its way

In November 2011, the European Parliament froze the budgets of all European Commission’s Expert Groups which role’s was to advice the Commission on new policy and legislation, demanding to end industry’s dominance in the matter. The Commission finally approved the Parliament’s demands. The move was welcomed by many civil society organisations, especially those working with DG Agriculture and Rural Affairs (AGRI), known for skewed groups composition. According to CEO, of the 30 AGRI advisory groups, 80% of the members represent large farming organisations and the food industry. Only 29 out of 943 places was taken by small-scale farming and organic organisations, 38 by consumer and 36 by environmental groups.

Notably and given the increasingly important issue for food, nutrition and population’s health as farming is, public health community such as the European Public Health Alliance was not granted an official seat in the groups and therefore could not represent its concerns towards the European Commission so far. That was a reason for EPHA to advocate for the reform, as outlined in the letter.

"The signing organisations (together representing millions of citizens, consumers and farmers across Europe) believe that the decision by the European Commission on the reform of the functioning and composition of advisory groups[ ] will only be successful if the Commission lives up to the spirit of its reform and puts into place all necessary elements to create a well-functioning, balanced and transparent civil society dialogue system. The share of seats in the groups should be calculated as follows:

  • 50 percent of the seats should be reserved for groups representing societal interests without direct economic interests (50/50 balance between economic and non-economic groups).
  • Within the two categories of stakeholders, no organization should have more than 30% of the seats. This will allow broad and inclusive discussions taking into account all views. It will also make their opinions more representative. Minority opinions sho uld be included when consensus is not reached."

Waiting until the process of a reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) finished, DG AGRI consulted civil society into what these new reformed advisory groups should look like. The results of the consultation were summed up in DG AGRI official decision released in December 2013 - seriously challenging industry domination within DG AGRI advisory groups (to be called ’Civil Society Groups’).

Whether such an ambitious change will happen, will depend on DG AGRI’s own interpretation of its own decision and how well voices behind this open letter sent (agriculture, environment, social and public health civil society) will be heard and defended.

- JOINT OPEN LETTER to Commissioner Dacian Cioloş - Reform of DG Agriculture advisory group system ( Cc: Commissioner Šefčovič, Secretary General Catherine Day, EU Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, MEP Dennis De Jong)

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Last modified on January 27 2014.