Composition of the EP Agriculture Committee

Open letter to Members of the European Parliament (MEPS)

We are writing to you as representatives of the environment, public health and farm animal welfare communities across Europe. In previous legislative periods of the European Parliament its Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development (ComAgri) has been rather dominated by MEPs who saw their main role as protectors and promoters of farming interests, exclusively.

As a result of this narrow focus, ComAgri and the Parliament have tended to give insufficient weight to farming’s impact on a range of issues, including the environment, food and nutrition security, consumers, human health, and animal welfare.

By producing food, agriculture’s key responsibility is to provide and nurture for a wider set of societal needs. Likewise, rural development is much more than just farming activities, it is also about people making daily use of a variety of vital social services that they are entitled to.

We would be grateful if you and your colleagues could take steps to ensure that the new ComAgri’s membership properly reflects the needs and concerns of society as a whole, rather than primarily representing the sectoral interests of the farming community.

In the coming months and years, the EU needs to address a number of important issues related to farming and food and it will be difficult to make progress on these if ComAgri continues to block proposals that it views as running counter to farming interests. These issues include the need to:

  • improve the nutritional quality of food in European diets and address challenges related to access to food
  • reduce the contribution of poor diet to the high and growing incidence of non-communicable disease
  • reduce farming’s contribution to the high incidence of antibiotic resistance
  • halt the harmful impact of industrial agriculture on the environment (including on water, land, air pollution, climate, biodiversity and ecosystem services)
  • reduce the proportion (at present 60%) of EU cereal production used as animal feed. This would enhance food security as cereals feed fewer people when fed to animals than when eaten directly by humans
  • revise the system of misguided subsidies that favours production and subsequent over-consumption of certain products that do not contribute to healthy and sustainable diets, but under-incentivises production of those considered healthy (such as fruit and vegetables)
  • provide consumers with honest, clear and simple labelling and information on how food is produced and how its consumption might affect their health and improve the welfare of the animals that produce our food.

It will not be possible for the Parliament to play a constructive role in guiding EU farming and food to a healthier future if its core Committee in this area sees its main function as representing and protecting the interests of farmers. Of course, MEPs with a farming background have an important role to play in equipping ComAgri with expertise, provided in an independent manner from inside and outside, according to the EU’s own Transparency Register.

However, the overall composition of the Committee should be such that it is able to respond properly to the full range of issues that are influenced by farming and encourages innovative thinking on how to change agriculture for the good of food security, the environment and resource-efficiency, while providing healthier, more nutritious food that is affordable and accessible to all.

Full letter co-signed by Compassion in World Farming, European Environmental Bureau, and European Public Health Alliance

Last modified on June 17 2014.