New agri-food strategy must “shift away” from intensive practice

Published by Kayle Crosson on

16 October 2020

The new 2030 Agri-Food Strategy must “shift away” from intensive agricultural practices, according to environmental groups. 

The Environmental Pillar and the Sustainable Water Network (SWAN) called for a complete overhaul of food production on World Food Day, an international day of recognition for the need to “grow, nourish and sustain together”. 

The 2030 strategy’s current trajectory, according to their statement, will result in continued support of large-scale intensive farming, which will fail to “adequately protect the environment or support smaller-scale farmers”. 

The process so far on the strategy, they go on to say, is failing in relation to public participation, something that is “vital”, according to Environmental Pillar and Feasta spokesperson Theresa O’Donohoe. 

Adherence to Aarhus Convention principles of such participation, according to Ms. O’Donohoe, is “extremely lacking” in this process. 

“Food production affects each and every one of us. It affects our climate, our health, and our biodiversity. 

With such far-reaching ramifications, communities need to be aware of how these decisions are made”. 

The momentum building within the European Union for more sustainable agriculture is one which “Ireland continues to lag behind”, according to Environmental Pillar co-ordinator Karen Ciesielski. 

“This is the key moment to create a system that protects livelihoods, works within ecological boundaries, and guarantees food security.

“All of these elements must be incorporated into the Agri-Food Strategy 2030, and we need a fair, considered process to get us there”, she added. 

Intensive agriculture 

Diverting away from damaging agriculture, according to the groups, is something Ireland has failed to do “year after year”. 

As a result, almost half of rivers, lakes and estuaries are in an unhealthy state and species in affected habitats have declined. 

Additionally, intensive agriculture creates a “negative impact on rural livelihoods”, the Pillar and SWAN go onto say. 

Citing the latest Teagasc National Farm Survey, the groups note that only a minority of farms in Ireland are economically viable, with most cattle and sheep farms struggling and “inadequately recognised for the ecosystem services they can and do provide”. 

To date, agriculture is Ireland’s largest source of greenhouse emissions. It now accounts for over a third of emissions, and increased from 33.3 per cent in 2017 to 33.9 per cent in 2018. 

Its total make up of Ireland’s emissions marks Ireland as an outlier within the EU, as the average for member states’ agricultural emissions comes out to 10 per cent. 

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