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Biodiversity Action Plan for Agriculture
The Commission is producing an action plan to improve or maintain biodiversity status and prevent further biodiversity loss due to agricultural activities.
Commission Communication of 27 March 2001 to the Council and the European Parliament: Biodiversity Action Plan for Agriculture (Volume III) [COM(2001) 162 final - not published in the Official Journal].
This communication is the third volume of the Commission Communication of 27 March 2001 on Biodiversity Action Plans in the areas of Conservation of Natural Resources, Agriculture, Fisheries, and Development and Economic Cooperation. This volume is specifically dedicated to agriculture.
In recent decades, the rate of decline and even disappearance of species and related habitats, ecosystems and genes (i.e. biodiversity) has increased throughout the world. This loss of biodiversity is deplorable in itself and has adverse effects on economic development since it is the basis for the food, fibres, drink, medicines, industrial processes, agriculture and fisheries activities we rely on for our survival.
In February 1998, the Commission adopted a communication on a Community Biodiversity Strategy. This strategy already provided for special action plans for the areas of activity concerned to be set up and implemented. This communication sets out the Action Plans in the areas of Conservation of Natural Resources, Agriculture, Fisheries, and Development and Economic Cooperation.
The Community Biodiversity Strategy and the Action Plans are covered by the European Union commitment to achieve sustainable development and integrate environmental concerns into other sectoral policies and other policy areas.
Indicators will be used for the long-term monitoring and benchmarking of Action Plan implementation. These indicators, which still have to be specified by the Commission with the help of the Member States, scientists and organisations concerned, will be measured locally and results compared.
The European Community clearing house mechanism (EC CHM) is an invaluable resource for exchanging information on biodiversity which should be supported and developed further.
The Commission is currently identifying biodiversity conservation research needs so as to include them in the Sixth European Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development.
The Commission plans to set up a Committee of Experts on Biodiversity which would disseminate information and strive to ensure that European and national measures were complementary. Representatives of NGOs, industry, associations and any other interested parties would be invited to attend committee meetings as observers.
The volume on agriculture begins with an analysis of the reciprocal relationship between agriculture and biodiversity stressing mutual benefits but also the pressure on biodiversity from farming. That analysis produced the following priorities for the action plan:
- keeping intensive farming at a level which is not harmful to biodiversity: by establishing good agricultural practice, reducing the use of fertilisers, supporting non-intensive modes de production and establishing sustainable resource management;
- ensuring that farming activities are economically viable, socially acceptable and safeguard biodiversity;
- implementing agri-environmental measures for the sustainable use of biodiversity;
- ensuring that the necessary ecological infrastructure exists;
- supporting measures related to maintaining local breeds and varieties and the diversity of varieties used in agriculture;
- preventing the spreading of non-native species.
The communication mentions several Community instruments that can be used to implement the biodiversity action plan:
- The Council Regulation establishing common rules for direct support schemes under the common agricultural policy;
- agri-environmental measures in the field of rural development: these are one of the key instruments of this action plan;
- other rural development measures;
- the environmental components of common market organisations;
- the Regulation (EC) No 870/2004 on genetic resources in agriculture;
- the environmental components of market-related instruments on quality: as listed in Annex 2 of the communication;
- plant health legislation;
A table annexed to the communication shows these instruments, the targets and the indicative timetable for achieving the sectoral and cross-sectoral objectives pinpointed in the European Community Biodiversity Strategy, as well as the priorities of this action plan as outlined above.
The effectiveness of the action plan is dependent on the proper implementation of all these measures by Member States. Member States must submit a report by 2003 giving precise details of any obstacles to improving biodiversity in agriculture.