February 09, 2006

Farm subsidies and biodiversity

Agri-Environment Schemes are EU farm subsidies with the stated purpose of preserving biodiversity. In 2003 the subsidies amounted to about € 3.7 billion. In 2005 the program covered approximately 25% of the total agricultural area in the 15 older member states. A research team funded by the EU has now concluded that
Agri-Environment Schemes (AES) in Europe appear to be largely ineffective as policy instruments. Research in five European countries has shown that common species of birds, insects and plants do not benefit very much from this kind of nature management and rare species benefit much less. There are virtually no benefits for threatened species (listed in the Red Data Books).
Although they do not succeed in protecting biodiversity the subsidies do perform some function:
[I]t has turned out that subsidies for AES provide European countries with the possibility of indirectly supporting the agricultural community in situations where direct support is under pressure due to the resulting distortion of international trade.
In other words, as many had already suspected, the Schemes are just traditional farm subsidies dressed up as biodiversity protection measures.

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