23 März 2020

Scientists call for action for the EU Common Agricultural Policy to address sustainability challenges

An open statement signed by over 3,600 scientists across Europe and beyond

Making agriculture sustainable is a global challenge. In the European Union (EU), the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is failing with respect to biodiversity, climate, soil, land degradation as well as socio-economic challenges.

The European Commission’s proposal for a CAP post-2020 provides a scope for enhanced sustainability. However, it also allows Member States to choose low-ambition implementation pathways. It therefore remains essential to address citizens’ demands for sustainable agriculture and rectify systemic weaknesses in the CAP, using the full breadth of available scientific evidence and knowledge.

Concerned about current attempts to dilute the environmental ambition of the future CAP, and the lack of concrete proposals for improving the CAP in the draft of the European Green Deal, we call on the European Parliament, Council and Commission to adopt ten urgent action points for delivering sustainable food production, biodiversity conservation, and climate mitigation.

Knowledge is available to help moving towards an evidence-based, sustainable European agriculture that can benefit people, nature and their joint futures.

The statements made in this article have the broad support of the scientific community, expressed by over 3,600 signatories to the preprint version of this manuscript.



G. Pe’er, A. Bonn, H. Bruelheide, P. Dieker, N. Eisenhauer, P. H. Feindt, G. Hagedorn, B. Hansjürgens, I. Herzon, A. Lomba, E. Marquard, F. Moreira, H. Nitsch, R. Oppermann, A. Perino, N. Röder, C. Schleyer, S. Schindler, C. Wolf, Y. Zinngrebe, S. Lakner (2020): Action needed for the EU Common Agricultural Policy to address sustainability challenges. The Position Paper was made available online on 4.11.2019 and opened for signatories until 19.2.2020; A peer reviewed derivation was published in People and Nature on 9.3.2020 (DOI: 10.1002/pan3.10080)


Read the full statement

Published in People and Nature – 9 March 2020
DOI: 10.1002/pan3.10080

See the list of signatories supporting the statement


Further reading

The call was made. It’s now time to direct it to the relevant decision-makers.

What is wrong with the CAP?

Read the 260-page Fitness Check, indicating both environmental and socioeconomic weaknesses.

What makes the Commission proposal for the CAP post-2020 weak?

Read Pe’er et al. 2019, Science (open access links); download the 65-page supplementary materials (PDF)

Why are we concerned about further watering down?

Read COMAGRI’s vote of 2 April 2019 for proposed amendments here, and the initial proposal made by the Member States’ Council here, to judge by yourself.

See an expression of concern by 15 NGOs on the watering down of Conditionality here.

See Open Letter by professional societies of ornithologists, mammalogists, herpetologists and butterfly experts here.

Read the Statement by the Rural Coalition of farmers, comprising CEJA, CEPF, CIC, Copa and Cogeca, ELO, FACE and UECBV regarding the CAP-proposal here.

Evidence-based recommendations made by scientists and other stakeholders in Ireland (see CAP4Nature here).


Frequently asked questions

Q: Who is a scientist?

A: If you have either completed a doctorate/PhD and particularly if you have been engaged in research/science, you may see yourself as a scientist. Note that if you are a student, or working in other fields, you will be asked to provide a DOI or another reference of a scientific publication as evidence.

Q: Can people out of the EU sign the position paper?

A: We did not specifically invite, but we also do not say “no” to such signatories, since the CAP does have global impacts. Moreover, people out of the EU may be doing research on relevant topics and may have the capacity to judge. After all, the main issue is a call for policy makers to make effective use of science and knowledge, noting that other countries do follow the path paved be the EU. Accordingly, the option of “other” does allow listing any country around the world.

Q: Are you not extending beyond your role as scientists?

A: Position papers are a well-established means of communication, used by a range of societal groups – including scientists – to make informed, evidence-based messages when a policy-relevant topic requires attention. The science behind our call is robust (and yet ignored), and our call avoids policy-prescriptive formulations to the extent possible. Notably, we are not only scientists but also citizens. Accordingly, the statement is made by the individuals who author and sign it.

Source: iDiV, press release, 2020-03-09.


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