13th June Private Eye

"Down on the Farm" by 'Muckspreader'

One of Britain's most active GM campaigners recently received by mistake an
invitation to a GM "consultation" meeting in Brussels.  Delighted to have
the chance to put her case directly to the EU's agriculture commissioner,
Frans Fischler, she was intrigued to see the great man take the platform,
flanked by representatives of companies concerned with pushing GM crops.

Fischler announced that growing GM crops would soon be legal throughout the
EU.  There was no opportunity for questioning or debate.  "It was a
'consultation,'" as she put it, "only in the sense that Stalin was
'consulting' with the Soviet people when he announced one of his five-year
plans".

A useful by-product of the debate over whether it should be legal to plant
GM crops in Britain is that it has helped bring home to a few more folk the
realisation that Britain no longer has any power to decide such things.  GM
campaigners can lobby environment secretary Mrs. Beckett and her fellow
ministers all they like over whether the English countryside should be
covered in genetically-modified wheat and carrots, but it is a waste of
breath.

As minister Michael Meacher recently admitted, the "competence" to decide GM
policy was handed to Brussels more than 10 years ago and there is no longer
anything he and his colleagues can do about it.  But the same is true of all
other aspects of farm policy.  It seems strangely difficult for people to
take on board that Britain's right to decide agricultural policy has been
handed over lock, stock and barrel to Brussels;  from deciding which crops
should be grown in our fields to making it a criminal offence to bury a
stillborn lamb or put a basket of free range eggs on the counter of a
village shop.

That is why people like Mrs. Beckett and Lord Whitty, the farms minister,
are reduced to behaving these days like bullying traffic wardens;  they have
no more power to decide what goes on in British farming than a jobsworth
from the local social services office.  This is also why British farmers
must take an interest in such things as the "mid-term review" of the EU's
common agricultural policy, recently discussed in the European parliament by
such experts as Agnes Schierhuber, an Austrian MEP, who explained to her
less well-informed colleagues that "farming is related to rural areas".

The debate's subject was a report which began by recommending that what is
needed to reform the CAP is "the preservation of a multifunctional European
agricultural model through a new system of support based on partial
decoupling of aid with the addition of specific multifunctional
supplements".  This was a model of lucidity compared with the remaining 13
pages.  But their gist was that subsidies should be taken away from larger
farms and redistributed as funding for "rural development".

What this means for Britain, where the average farm is seven times larger
than in the rest of the EU is that subsidies will be withdrawn from farmers
and given instead to the burgeoning army of quangoes and consultants who in
Britain are virtually the only beneficiaries of the rural development fund.
In other words, it will be made even harder for British farmers to compete
with their more highly-subsidised French and Irish colleagues, who still
can't believe their luck that, when the British hand over 2.5 billion every
year to subsidise their own farmers, they must also hand over another 2.5
billion to subsidise their competitors elsewhere in the EU.  A very clever
arrangement.
 
 'Muckspreader'