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BirdLife International European Division


30 Jul 2009


Climate & Environment
Health & Consumers

30 July 2009 - Brussels
BirdLife reaction regarding CAP subsidies being used to support EU dairy sector.

Background information:
A significant proportion of the CAP budget is being used to support the EU dairy sector. Many of these measures are trade distorting or based on derogations to state-aid rules.

Some of these measures (e.g. school milk scheme) are justified as benefiting health, although benefits of dairy consumption are in part unclear and associated to negative effects. However, some evidence suggests that milk produced on organic systems based on semi-natural
grassland might have better nutritional characteristics (e.g. more polyunsaturated acids) than milk produced in intensive and conventional systems.

The large majority of EU milk production occurs in intensive farms, which have well-documented negative environmental impacts, both at local and global scale; e.g. climate change, habitat destruction, water
pollution. These farms have extremely high stocking density and rely mostly on externally sourced concentrate feeds (mainly soya meal). The high productivity leads to overexploitation of cows and high use of antibiotics, with development of resistant bacteria strains.

Conversely, extensive dairy systems, though representing a small proportion of EU dairy sector, have positive environmental outcomes because contribute to the maintenance of valuable grassland habitats.

The main features of these systems are: use of local semi-natural grassland as main food source, low stocking density, hardy breeds and no use of antibiotics (limited use of other drugs).

The EU and Member States should stop wasting public money in dairy measures that damage the environment. It is not acceptable that public money is used to help dairy industry through measures justified as helping child's health, while beneficial effects are unclear and matched
by negative effects.

The CAP should selectively support only those dairy systems that can benefit the environment and produce food of high nutritional quality. In particular, specific measures should address:

.appropriate management and restoration of semi-natural grassland,

.support dairy farmers managing semi-natural grassland to enter organic certification

.support organic farmers in developing a direct supply chain

.inform the public on the positive effects for health and the environment linked to consumption of organic/semi-natural grassland based products.

BirdLife reaction by Ariel Brunner, Senior Agriculture Policy Officer

Ariel Brunner: "BirdLife is deeply concerned that the recent flurry of subsidies to the dairy sector are being used once again to support unsustainable factory farming rather than biodiversity friendly extensive grazing. It is
deeply disturbing to see the EU and National governments dumping low
quality industrial cheese on developing countries markets or promoting
industrial products of dubious health impacts as part of the School milk
scheme, while agri environmental schemes for sustainably grazing and
organic production are still starved of funding".


Ariel Brunner

Senior EU Agriculture Policy Officer

Tel: +32(0) (Direct)