After almost two years, the ‘Save Bees and Farmers’ petition is still more than 250,000 signatures short of the million needed to force Europe to develop legislative initiatives for preserving and increasing biodiversity.
There is still one month left to collect the necessary signatures.
“European agriculture is reaching a dead end,” the petition warns.
“Agricultural policies that were one-sidedly geared towards increasing yields by increasing the use of toxic agrochemicals have brought the ecosystem to the brink of collapse. Day by day, the biological diversity that underpins our food systems is disappearing – putting the future of our food, livelihoods, health and environment under severe threat.”
The organisations behind the petition point to disastrous consequences for nature, such as the disappearance of bees, butterflies and other insects from the landscapes and the decline of bird populations.
“Our streams and rivers are being polluted and we are exposed to a daily cocktail of synthetic pesticides through our food,” reads the petition.
“Moreover, the very survival of farming communities in Europe is equally threatened by industrial agriculture.”
They say that over the last 10 years, on average, one farm shut down every three minutes.
“True to the motto ‘Grow or Die,’ more and more land is being managed by an ever-smaller number of businesses, focussing on yields and sales rather than on quality,” the petition says.
“Conversely, small-scale farms are struggling to survive. With their disappearance, Europe’s rural areas lose jobs and their cultural heritage.”
In Flanders, some efforts towards preserving bee and insect populations have already been taken, including more thoughtful mowing of grass along roadsides in order to protect those habitats.
The petition calling on Europe-wide policy changes was first organised back in September of 2019 by nature and environmental associations, who created a European Citizens’ Initiative to oblige the European Commission to develop legislation on biodiversity.
From Belgium, Voedsel Anders and Velt have joined the Citizens’ Initiative - both organisations with a focus on ecologically responsible food production and sustainability in the food chain.
They’re asking for a ban on synthetic crop protection products and the restoration of natural ecosystems in agricultural areas, among other things.
The collective would like to see the most harmful substances banned during an interim phase, aiming at an 80 percent reduction by 2030 and a total ban on synthetic crop protection agents by 2035.
They’d like for agriculture to become a driving force for biodiversity restoration through reform of the sector that focuses on small-scale, varied and sustainable agriculture, along with the adoption of agro-ecological and biological practices.
To put those ideas on the agenda of the European Commission, a petition was started almost two years ago.
After such a petition reaches one million signatures, EU law requires the Commission to act on it and formulate legislative initiatives on the issue raised.
Today, the ‘Save Bees and Farmers’ petition has just over 741,000 signatures.
More than 40,000 of those signatures are from Belgium, according to the Flemish infocentre for agriculture and horticulture (VILT).
The deadline for collecting the necessary number of signatures was recently extended to 30 September 2021, leaving the nature and environmental organisations with less than a month left to collect the remaining amount needed.