European Commission to probe agri-industry expansion plan


THE EUROPEAN Commission is to investigate complaints that the agri-industry’s Food Harvest 2020 expansion plan is proceeding without proper scrutiny of its likely impact on the environment.

Fifteen Irish environmental groups complained to the commission that only an ad hoc “environmental analysis of various scenarios” is being carried out by consultants, with the aid of submissions from interested parties.

Under the plan, milk and pig-meat production would increase by 50 per cent, beef and sheep output by 20 per cent, poultry production by 10 per cent and fish farming by 78 per cent by 2020.

Apart from the potential impact on special areas of conservation, there is concern that such increases in production would exacerbate agriculture’s already large contribution to Ireland’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The environmental groups pointed out that Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney, who is chairing the implementation committee for the plan, is legally required by EU directives to go through a formal review process.

Such a process must ensure any development plan will not have “a significant effect on, or adversely affect the integrity of, any site protected under European law”.

Both the authors of Food Harvest 2020 and the Environmental Protection Agency recommended that the programme be assessed under European directives but the Minister has declined to do so.

The complaint also raised the issue of fish farming, which has been excluded from any assessment although the Minister wants to see a 300 per cent increase in production for this sector.

A spokesman for the groups said it was “ridiculous” to form a strategy with no legally-structured regard to environmental issues and measures to “prevent, reduce and offset any significant adverse effects on the environment”.

The groups involved are An Taisce, Bat Conservation Ireland, BirdWatch Ireland, Coastwatch Europe, Feasta, Friends of the Earth, Friends of the Irish Environment, Forest Friends, Global Action Plan, Hedgelaying Association of Ireland, Irish Doctors Environmental Association, Irish Wildlife Trust, Irish Natural Forestry Foundation, Just Forests and the Organic Centre.