HomeIdeaProtesting farmers, pesticides instead of #fairprice

Protesting farmers, pesticides instead of #fairprice

Protesting farmers receive the green light from Ursula von der Leyen to continue the (ab)use of pesticides instead of obtaining guarantees on #fairprice and a ban on sales #belowcost.

All good for the big agricultural confederations, which had already boycotted the SUR proposal (Sustainable Use and Reduction of pesticides) to the European Parliament. (1) All bad for farmers and populations.

1) #FarmersProtest2024

<em> The farmers' protest<em> continues and spreads. In addition to Germany, Poland, Romania, France, Belgium and Italy, we highlight:

- Spain. On February 6th Union of Unions and spontaneous mobilizations preceded the three big confederations (Asaja, Coag, UPA). Roads blocked in Andalusia, Catalunya and Extremadura, soon also in Salamanca and the Basque Country, on the way to Madrid (2)

- Holland. Dutch police broke up the demonstrations and made a couple of arrests, after highway blockades and some hay fires on the roads. On February 7th Farmers Defense Force suspended the protests pending answers from the government (3,4)

- Bulgaria. The protest announced by Национална асоциация на зърнопроизводителите (НАЗ), which began on February 6th, will continue until the government provides acceptable answers on income support and aid redistribution (5)

- Cyprus, Greece. Cypriot farmers march on the House of Europe in Nicosia, throwing fruit onto the street in protest against skyrocketing costs and cheap imports from Ukraine and other countries. (6) So last week the Greek farmers in Thessaloniki (7)

- Italy. The tractors continue to garrison the streets of the entire Bel Paese, to contest not only the failed national policies but also the first national agricultural confederation, Coldiretti, identified as being primarily responsible (8,9).

2) Skyrocketing costs, #fairprice, unfair competition, bureaucracy

Who works the land has clear ideas about the causes of the current crisis:

- skyrocketing production costs. The boomerang effect of the EU sanctions on Russia has provided an opportunity for fertiliser monopolists to increase their prices by up to 3,5 times, as noted by the CMA (Competition and Markets Authority) in the UK (10)

- low selling prices. The analysis conducted by Politico Europe shows how in 11 EU countries prices paid to farmers fell by more than 10% from 2022 to 2023. (11) Below-cost selling is systematic and still unregulated (12)

- cheap imports of foodstuffs that sometimes lack health controls. As is the case with goods arriving from Ukraine, without duties or tariff quotas because of the ATP, ( Autonomous Trade Measures Regulation), now being renewed (13)

- suffocating bureaucracy. Family and peasant agriculture, which accounts for 94,8 per cent of farms in the EU (Eurostat, 2020) cannot cope with the complexity of rules and red tape.

3) Ukrainian issue

Agricultural production of Ukraine is estimated to have declined by at least 30-40% since the beginning of the war, (14) but its imports from other non-EU countries and its exports to the EU have conversely increased:

- the import of agri-foodstuffs into Ukraine reached US$ 7,1 billion in 2023, +13% compared to 2022. The goods come from the EU (51% of the total. Poland in first place, US$ 950 million), Turkey and the USA, but also from Asia (US$ 1,37 billion), Latin America (US$ 511 million) and Africa (US$ 326 million), (15)

- export from Ukraine to the European Union in turn reached record levels, US$ 21,9 billion in 2023. (16) Sugar in transit from Ukraine to the EU has increased tenfold, from 40.172 to 406.777 tonnes in the last year, to the jubilation of international traders and Big Food, and a crisis for European beet growers. (17)

The actual origin and food safety of foodstuffs are without guarantee because they are based on self-certification, complain European farmers. But they - in asking for more aid - do not object to the spending choices of the EU, which has just allocated one third of its budget to Kiev.

4) Green Deal Farm to Fork, the great confusion

Green Deal is the ten-point strategy launched on 11 December 2019 by the European Commission, with an investment programme of over one trillion euros, to convert the Old Continent's economy to renewable energy and carbon neutrality. (18) Its impact on production costs in agriculture is essentially related to the claim to replace diesel with electricity in tractors and automotive.

Farm to Fork is instead the strategy presented in Brussels on 20 May 2020 to promote the ecological transition in agriculture. (19) The focus has been on how to ensure agricultural production and profitability in the medium to long term, with benefits for the environment and population health. The measures included in it therefore concern:

- Soil strategy 2030. Improving the health of soils to prevent erosion, increase fertility, reduce the risk of hydrogeological disruption (20)

- Biodiversity strategy 2030. Mitigating the biodiversity crisis that is causing the decline of ecosystems and pollinating insects (21)

- Nature Restoration Law. Restore the severe degradation that today afflicts 70% of rural and natural ecosystems in the Old Continent (22)

- SUR (Sustainable Use and Reduction of pesticides). Substantial reduction of the use of pesticides, herbicides and other toxic substances in agriculture.

5) Ursula von der Leyen, pesticides for protesting farmers

Ursula von der Leyen has decided to settle the 'polarisation' of European farmers by taking the side of the large agricultural confederations, which are in perpetual conflict of interest with pesticide and seed suppliers. Thus,

– instead of addressing the real problems that caused the protest (see paragraphs 2,3). In a hashtag, #fairprice

– after proposing to extend the exemption to the CAEG 8 environmental sustainability standard (23)

– announced the withdrawal of the SUR proposal, to reduce the use of toxic chemicals in agriculture. (24)

The most drastic comment comes from former Wageningen University dean Louise Fresco, interviewed by Euractiv:

- 'if you just ask for a dialogue without indicating where you want to go and what choices to make, you have a lack of leadership'

- 'things are not black and white, especially in agriculture, but have many more nuances, and if you don't perceive these in European agriculture and in Europe in general, it is because you are so high on glossing over everything [that] you miss the reality of life'. (25)

6) Pesticides out of control, what effects?

Finance in agriculture obviously welcomes the Brussels decision. The more pesticides and herbicides are used, the more of them will be needed, in addition to nitrogenous fertilisers to restore nutrients to sterilised soils. And so:

– family and peasant farms (94,8% of the total) will thus be increasingly burdened by agricultural inputs, the costs of which have risen disproportionately in recent decades (without this being matched by any increase in the prices of their products)

– farmers and their families in the first instance will continue to be exposed to carcinogenic, genotoxic and neurotoxic chemicals whose safety has not even been re-evaluated by EFSA as it should have been (26)

– the 157,4 million hectares of utilised agricultural land in the EU, or 38,4% of the land area in the EU (Eurostat, 2020) will be increasingly exposed to poisons that pollute soils and leach into waters (27)

7) Oligarchies vs. protesting farmers

Polarization of farmers is destined to worsen:

– on one hand, the agro-industrial oligarchies are congratulating themselves on the green light to continue the (ab)use of pesticides which even, according to Coldiretti president Ettore Prandini, 'saves 30% of the productions at the basis of the Mediterranean diet, from wine to tomatoes, put at risk by the unrealistic objective of halving the use of agrochemicals'. (28) A false assertion, as the French National Institute for Agricultural Research demonstrated at the time. (29)

– on one other hand, the protesting farmers who, with the support of the independent agricultural confederations, are demanding the #fairprice and economic support for the ecological transition deemed necessary to be true guardians of nature, biodiversity and good food. (30) By limiting the use of pesticides to only those substances permitted in organic farming, whose minimal toxicity to the environment and humans has been proven by science. (31)

8) Farmers and citizens, the common thread

'Let's not miss the target! The main concern on the ground is to earn a decent living from one's work. The administrative overload must be eased without calling into question the standards that protect our health, our social rights and our planet' (Confédération paysanne). (32)

Le giga-farms, global monopolists of technical inputs in agriculture and international retail giants still impose their conditions on the weaker players in the supply chain. Family and peasant agriculture and citizens, plagued by greedflation in production costs and consumer prices, are not prepared to accept more poisons or new GMOs. (33)

No eco-logical farms, no good food, no future!

Dario Dongo


(1) Dario Dongo. No to reducing pesticides, yes to glyphosate. ToxicEurope. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 23.11.23

(2) Spanish farmers blockade roads, joining EU peers' protests. Reuters. 6.2.24 http://tinyurl.com/y845bpw4

(3) Police move to end Dutch farmer protests. Reuters. 6.2.24 http://tinyurl.com/4sh8kjrf

(4) No farmers' protests for the time being, new actions postponed. Omroep Brabant. 7.2.24 http://tinyurl.com/mrybz8zk

(5) Elka Vasileva. Here's what: What's the story here? с повече. Dens.bg. 7.2.24 http://tinyurl.com/yc83debd

(6) Στους δρόμους και οι αγρότες της Πάφου – Θα μοιράζουν φρούτα στους οδηγούς. Cyprus Times. 7.2.24 http://tinyurl.com/j5rkrsdd

(7) Hundreds of farmers protest at Greek agriculture fair. France 24. 1.2.24 http://tinyurl.com/2s4euczh

(8) Tractor protest, new collection points in Rome: "Authorised or not we will demonstrate". Garrisons and marches underway throughout Italy. Il Fatto Quotidiano. 6.2.24 http://tinyurl.com/29fzxazh

(9) Dario Dongo. Italy, farmers protest against Coldiretti. #CleanSpades. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 26.1.24

(10) See paragraph 7 of the previous article by Dario Dongo. Greedflation and shrinkflation, survey in the UK. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 18.1.24

(11) Only farmers in Greece and Cyprus recorded an increase in revenues, thanks to the increase in demand for olive oil. See Hanne Cokelaere, Bartosz Brzeziński. Europe's farmer protests are spreading. Here's where and why. Politico Europe. 31.1.24 http://tinyurl.com/4d6xt57f

(12) Luisiana Gaita. Protest from the tractors, because the large-scale retail system is in the crosshairs: from unfair commercial practices to below-cost sales. Il Fatto Quotidiano. 6.2.24 http://tinyurl.com/ykczyxev

(13) See paragraph 4 of the previous article by Dario Dongo. European farmers, the Ukrainian question in Brussels. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 16.1.24

(14) Dario Dongo. Ukrainian agriculture, the 'aid' of the West. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 19.6.23

(15) Ella Bennett. Ukraine's Agricultural Import Growth: A 13% Increase in 2023. The UBJ (United Arabs Emirates Business Journal). 6.2.24

(16) Pavel Polityuk. Ukraine's farm unions ask government to protect free EU market access. Reuters. 6.2.24

(17) Angelo Di Mambro. Unlike farmers, EU sugar-using industry wants more imports from Ukraine. Euractiv. 16.1.24 http://tinyurl.com/bdexhs7x

(18) European Green Deal, the new strategy in the EU. Égalité. 13.12.19 https://www.egalite.org/european-green-deal-la-nuova-strategia-in-ue/

(19) Dario Dongo. Farm to Fork, resolution in Strasbourg. Focus on pesticides and fertilizers. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 23.11.21

(20) Dario Dongo. Soil protection, 2030 strategy. ABC. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 6.12.21

(21) Dario Dongo, Giulia Torre. EU 2030 Strategy for Biodiversity, the plan announced in Brussels. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 31.5.20

(22) Dario Dongo, Alessandra Mei. 'Nature Restoration Law', green light with downward agreement. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 19.11.23

(23) Dario Dongo. Farmers in protest, the viral deception of Coldiretti & Co. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 5.2.24

(24) Raf Casert. EU scraps pesticide proposal in another concession to protesting farmers. AP Business News. 6.2.24

(25) Angelo Di Mambro. Dialogue not enough to solve farmers and food problems, says Dutch food scientist. Euractiv. 6.2.24 http://tinyurl.com/yubefk3r

(26) Marta Strinati. Not just glyphosate. 33% of pesticides used in the EU are without risk assessment. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 26.11.22

(27) Gabriele Sapienza. ISPRA, 2022 report on pesticides in Italian waters. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 19.10.23

(28) Farmers, Coldiretti: von der Leyen's stop saves 30% of Made in Italy. Il Tempo. 7.2.24 https://www.iltempo.it/politica/2024/02/06/news/agricoltori-ritiro-fitofarmaci-ue-von-der-leyen-coldiretti-prandini-made-in-italy-38343833/

(29) Dario Dongo. Fewer pesticides, more food, a study of fields across France reveals. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 9.4.17

(30) Francesca Barca. Agro-industrial oligarchy and sustainable agriculture: the European farmer protests. Voxeurope. 6.2.24 http://tinyurl.com/ykybt8tu

(31) Marta Strinati. Pesticides used in conventional and bio. Comparison of toxicity. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 16.3.23

(32) Dario Dongo. Confédération paysanne and LiberiAgricoltori, the reasons for the protest. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 29.1.24

(33) Marta Strinati. Special Eurobarometer 2022 on food safetyGIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 6.1.23

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