While the latest reforms of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) have been declared significantly ‘greener by the members of the European Parliament, leading conservation experts writing in the journal Science warn that after three years of CAP negotiations the environmental reforms are so diluted they will be of no benefit to European wildlife. And, what’s more, biodiversity will continue to decline across the continent.

Under the new CAP almost a third of direct payments to farmers are now subject to conditions relating to ‘greening measures’. However, after analysing the details of the reformed CAP, experts from a number of major organisations revealed that about half of all farmland and 80-90% of all the farmers in the EU could be exempt from having to abide by two of the three new environmental requirements. At the same time, budgets to support voluntary ‘greening measures’ have been reduced.

One of the authors of the report, Dr Lynn Dicks – from the University of Cambridge  – told Agriland, that the beefing up of the current national agri conservation schemes – funded through Pilllar 2 of CAP – would have made more sense in terms of improving the levels of biodiversity found in rural areas.

“The new greening measures will not work because they simply promote the establishment of grass monocultures. Yes, reference is made to the planting of hedges. But no encouragement is given, so as to ensure that new hedging is managed properly. It’s all pretty self-defeating.”

She went on to point out that soil degradation in Western Europe has now reached critical levels. “And the CAP’s new greening criteria will do little to address this problem. Eastern Europe has the largest area of species rich grasslands within the sphere of the CAP’s influence.”

When asked how the extra 3 billion people that will inhabit the Earth in three decades’ time will be fed, Lynn Dicks said. “Destroying our soils is not the answer. And this is a collision course that we seem to be on at the moment.”

The group of conservationists, who compiled the article believe that individual member states must use the flexibility offered by the reforms to design national plans for sustaining ecosystems.