Let’s support organic farming to preserve biodiversity

France is struggling to implement an ambitious agricultural policy to conserve biodiversity. More recently, the European Commission has raised concerns about the low level of environmental and climate ambitions of the French National Strategic Plan (PSN). However, more efficient agricultural sectors have proven themselves, in particular organic farming, which, from upstream to downstream, is most capable of conserving biodiversity.

13 organizations (including FNAB, Synabio, LPO, FNH, Solagro, Agir pour l’Environnement, FNE…) are calling for more organic use in France to conserve biodiversity in the face of subsidized traditional agriculture that is destroying our environment and our health.

Pesticides, destroyers of biodiversity

What if a sixth mass extinction happened on our plates? This is a disturbing conclusion from the World Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2019.” Biodiversity is declining all over the world. Once lost, plant, animal and microbial species that are critical to our food systems cannot be restored. Thus, the future of our food is under serious threat.. »

Many studies now show that synthetic chemical pesticides are a significant contributor to this mass extinction.
Insects are the most affected by pesticides. Over the past 30 years, 75% of the biomass of flying insects has disappeared (PLOS, 2017). In question, according to researchers, the massive use of pesticides, in particular neonicotinoids, neurotoxins used as insecticides.

Small mammals and birds that use the fields as a food source are also directly exposed to pesticides. A 2018 ONCFS report shows that out of 3,000 suspected cases of bird poisoning over 20 years, 239 carcasses were found near freshly planted fields. In 2/3 of the cases, the birds ate the treated seeds…

But the impact of pesticides on biodiversity is not limited to a few days after phytosanitary treatments. In the long term, chronic exposure to low doses can have equally devastating effects on human survival or reproduction.[1][2].

However, it is possible to combine biodiversity conservation and agriculture by adopting more respectful practices that, like organic farming, have already proven their worth.

Organic farming: a model capable of conserving biodiversity

“Promoting the achievement of a high level of biodiversity” is one of the main goals of organic farming (European regulation RCE 848/2018).

By strictly banning the use of synthetic chemicals, organic farming directly or indirectly reduces the pressure on biodiversity. Moreover, in the absence of chemicals, organic farmers are pioneers in the development of agro-ecological practices that allow them to maintain good yield levels in cooperation with living organisms: long and diversified crop rotations; vegetation cover; organic fertilizers; introduction of agroecological infrastructure (hedges, groves, wetlands, etc.).

This leads to tangible results:

  • we find on average 30% more species and 50% higher numbers of individuals in organic farming sites.[3].
  • Families surrounded by organic farmland have up to 37% more brood, 20% more adult bees and 53% more honey compared to colonies located in traditional agricultural landscapes.[4]
  • Feeding two groups of gray partridges (symbolic birds of the agricultural plains) for several weeks with cereals from organic or conventional farming, the researchers found a clear deterioration in health.[5].

At their level, organic processors and distributors also play a pioneering role in the diversification of ingredients used in recipes (eg legumes, farmers seeds, old varieties and varieties, “minor” crops).[6]…). Thus, they allow the creation of markets for these crops.

These virtuous practices have significant costs, which today are mainly borne by companies and farmers, and which, due to the lack of government assistance, are reflected in prices. Consumers are penalized in terms of purchasing power if they want to choose more sustainable products. Thus, the generalization of these practices will require better funding, and CAP should be an appropriate tool for this.

Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to protect biodiversity

There is an urgent need to put in place firm policies to better conserve biodiversity. To this end, we call on the French government to carry out a thorough review in order to respond to the shortcomings identified by the European Commission, in particular:

  • Implementation of an organic PES in an eco-scheme of at least €145/ha/year for the final reward of services provided by best practices in soil, biodiversity, water, climate, health, animal welfare;
  • And, therefore, the revision of the system of eco-regimes to promote really proven agricultural systems by creating a 3rd higher level, reserved for organic, in order to strictly differentiate it from HPE;
  • Better funding for the conservation and restoration of permanent natural pastures (the first type of environment currently being destroyed in France);
  • Creation of a bonus for biodiversity-friendly practices that fall under the Green and Blue Infrastructure policy.

More broadly, it is important to further mobilize public research in agriculture and the assessment of the environmental impacts of various production methods, in particular to overcome the unambiguous and biased approach to life cycle analysis.

France submitted its National Strategic Plan (PSN) proposal to the European Commission on 22 December 2021. It provides for the development of the production of legumes; doubling the area of ​​organic farming by 2027, i.e. 18% agricultural area; encouraging the maintenance and planting of hedges; crop diversification; conservation of permanent pastures; development of synergy between crop production and animal husbandry.

Ratings

  1. Effects of Fungicides on Birds from Eating Treated Seeds: A 2022 Study on Wild Red-footed Partridges in Central Spain, Environmental Pollution
  2. Feeding partridges organic or regular grain causes cascading effects in vital signs, Pollution (2021)
  3. Land use intensity and the impact of organic farming on biodiversity: a hierarchical meta-analysis, Tuck et al (2014)
  4. Influence of organic farming on the seasonal dynamics of the productivity of bee colonies. Dimitri Wintermantel, Jean-Francois Audu, Joel Chadouf, Vincent Bretagnol, Journal of Applied Ecology (2019)
  5. Feeding partridges organic or regular grain causes cascading effects in vital signs, Pollution (2021)
  6. Crops representing less than 150,000 ha of the French UAA (oats, rye, rice, flax, small spelled, large spelled, millet, buckwheat, hemp, camelina, legumes, chestnuts, almonds, olives, etc.)

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