Wind Renewal and Heinrich Böll Stiftung Greece have started a constructive debate with researchers, representatives of business units, social and environmental bodies as well as experts about “Green Deal” and its significance for Greece, particularly in four fields:
- Climate and energy
- Residences, cities and transportations
- Green finance
and in four horizontal policies:
- Social cohesion, social policy, social pillar
- Education, youth, employment
- Gender dimension, social inequalities and discriminations
- Social business, social and solidarity-based economy
The aim is to develop, through systematic consultation, a proposal for a Green Deal that will leave no one behind and will contribute to the creation of a new production and consumption model. In this context, we have started publishing a series of articles on these topics.
The thirteenth (13) article in this series, by Katerina Mylona –veterinarian and member of Nature Friends Greece and SEATTLE TO BRUSSELS Network–, refers to the productive reconstruction of the country, the role of agriculture and the protection of the planet.
The planet is in multiple crises: health, political, economic, food and environmental crisis, resulting in increasing hunger, poverty, inequality and the loss of biodiversity.
The role of agriculture and farmers is crucial in preserving biodiversity and maintaining cohesion in the countryside. The characteristics of Greek land –the small lots and family farms, along with the mountainous areas and numerous islands– become a comparative advantage for the production of many, quality and diversified agricultural products, which –together with country’s food sovereignty– constitute the necessary condition to support the productive reconstruction of the agrifood sector in Greece.
So far, all researches focus on the impact of agriculture on climate change. Studies on the effects of climate change on agriculture are currently under way.
In order for a country to be able to meet the needs of its inhabitants/citizens and to stand at international level, it must first develop all three sectors of the economy: the primary, the secondary and the tertiary sector. The Greek economy, after the political transition to democracy anyway, was based on consumption (tertiary sector) and not on the primary sector, resulting the country’s balance to become more and more negative, due to the increasing imports of raw materials and products –food and other– of the primary sector in all fields of the country’s economy and mainly in agriculture and the import of animal products. In fact, in certain years, the exchange rate for the import of animal products approached or exceeded the exchange rate for the import of fuels.
The productive reconstruction of the country is connected with its economic and social transformation. But, human resources and the goals set for that purpose are also key factors.
In post-war Greece, (and even further back) there was no plan of productive structure, for that to be used as a base for future planning. All these years, the country had been living based on random actions which served the electoral plans and conjunctures of a particular period. The human resources remained disorganised or, at best, organised in an unruly and occasional manner. The cooperative movement was led to its own discrediting. The financial resources were allocated in a fragmented and occasional manner and mainly with choices made outside Greece. Within Greece, the issue was limited to how much money would “enter” the country and not which sectors we would support and why. Productive resources and conditions (land, water, natural climate) have been disposed of and used without terms of sustainability and they have been wasted.
The pandemic has taught us a lot, if we can, of course, understand the messages and evaluate them properly. Some -daydreamers- are nostalgic for the previous situation and wait for us to return to it, when the pandemic “ends”. It must be clear that we cannot go back to the previous situation and do everything as before, because, behaving that way, led us to where we are today as regards the health sector and the NHS, as well as the climate change and the organisation of production, society and political life.
Trade liberalisation through Free Trade Agreements –bilateral in recent years– and the lack of effective global market regulation have led farmers to often sell below cost as well as their farms to be in an unsustainable –economically– condition. At the same time, for consumers, buying food is becoming more and more expensive (unfair commercial practices).
The Transatlantic Free Trade Agreements (TTIP, CETATiSA and the bilateral ones in which they have evolved) have come to control not only the production and marketing of agricultural products and food, but also the conditions under which they are produced along with the terms based on which the citizens and the states will negotiate their rights to choose how and what they will produce, what they will consume = basically, our right to food sovereignty/choice.
A Green Deal for Europe
On 27 May 2020, the European Commission published its proposal “From farm to fork - A strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system” and the one for the Conservation of Biodiversity, integrated in the European New Green Deal. This is certainly a very ambitious proposal.
But, the major agricultural associations in Europe question this political proposal of the European Commission and oppose it. The reason is obvious: reduced yields –hence profits– due to reduced use of fertilizers, pesticides, veterinary drugs and compliance with animal ethology.
It must be clear that the dynamics of any proposal for agricultural production goes beyond the interests of just a group of citizens (farmers). It concerns the whole society and therefore has, or can acquire, political value. In an age of food shortage, it is still argued that only increased production can solve the problem of hunger, and that only large agricultural enterprises can produce more food to feed the world’s growing population. And this argument keeps coming up years after the results of relevant detailed researches has shown that the global problem of hunger is not technological, but social and political.
The aim of our policy proposal should be the development of the agrifood sector of the country while targeting to adequate supply of basic foodstuff (food security) to the maximum extent possible and the production of agricultural products and food with respect for the environment and public health. In this context, cooperatives are a key pillar of the productive reconstruction of the country in all sectors.
The direction of the CAP
The direction of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) is towards a competitive agriculture, which means that its goal is not food security (i.e. food), but exports. And we consider this to be wrong.
The choice between conventional agro-systems or integrated management (with controlled use of aggravating inputs) or organic farming and livestock farming (with prohibition of aggravating inputs use) is essentially the standard of living we choose, the quality of our food and the environment we choose to live in. And that is integrated management and organic farming.
Regarding the strengthening and support of the agricultural sector and its products, we propose a new model of agricultural aid which will be determined on the basis of agro-ecological standards, and this means no to growth, no to intensification, yes to quality agriculture, yes to the protection of public health and environment.
Our proposal refers to a CAP that will contribute to the food security of EU citizens (but also to all the inhabitants of the planet to the extent appropriate), to the protection of public health and environment.
- A CAP that will not repeal the “farm to fork strategy” and the “to reduce biodiversity loss” policy, allowing and often rewarding the use of pesticides and fertilizers that do little to promote biodiversity and protect public health and the environment.
- A CAP that rightly legislates against unfair commercial practices, but it does not conclude bilateral trade agreements like Free Trade Agreements that stifle the sale of small producers’ products by effectively banning them from producing, while any guarantee for protection of public health and environment would be considered as obstacles for free trade.
- A CAP that will promote short food supply chains, which will further protect the environment and public health, without subsidising trade over extreme distances.
Multinational companies strive for higher production and higher returns in order to make the highest profit. And they succeeded, in the beginning. But now things have changed and there are already the first signs of declining global production in recent years.
The consumer model results from the choice made by the multinational companies, i.e. the Markets, for us and our needs. They affect things around the world, creating artificial demand to produce what they want, regardless of citizens’ health or the environment. The result is the “diseases of civilisation”, as we used to call them, the pandemics and, of course, the disruption of ecosystems and climate change.
We believe that the primary goal must be nutritional independence, meaning food sovereignty, meaning the access of all people on earth to adequate, quality and healthy food. This applies to our country, but also to the whole world, given on the one hand the substantial abolition of borders, and the sense of universality that distinguishes issues, such as food, on the other.
Unified Health (Animals - Humans - Environment)
COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a general effort to investigate the cause of the worldwide transmission and spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Relevant studies and research converge on the causes of pandemics as well as on the consequences they have on human health and sociability, the economy and the environment.
Scientists believe that the two most important factors that have contributed to the outbreak of COVID-19, Ebola, SARS and HIV, the four major emerging diseases of the last 50 years, are the destruction of tropical forests and the trade of wildlife products.
The causes may be different viruses which exist in the wild, but, like all infectious agents (germs, viruses, parasites, etc.), they multiply and cause diseases only when the right environment is created for them.
Two other important factors that play a determine role are the production and distribution methods of agrifood products and the increasingly intense interactions between humans, animals and natural world.
The question that arises is: How can this be fixed, what can we do?
Do we need to change some things in the way we produce, consume, perceive, deal with and use the planet’s resources?
Do we have to look at things as a whole and not separately?