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EDITORIAL S

terns, 1.5 miles of ancient hedgerow and two badger setts, one of which is more than 200 years old - all in the name of an 'environmental' project. This information has been ignored by the local media, who pay excessive lip service to the project. For a long time they have described the Bodelva pit as 'disused', though in fact it has at least 15 years' life left in it, with possibly another 15 years to run after that. There were between 30 and 40 full-time employees at the pit whose wages were the envy of the county. They had well-paid company jobs averaging about £300 per week, plus pension schemes and health-care. These jobs are being replaced by the usual low-waged tourism-linked opportunities that are seasonal and without prospects.

The project's original cost, before downsizing, was £105 million. Its job creation projection was 300 jobs. There is a maximum recommended investment for job creation which hovers around £15,000 per job created. Yet the Eden Project is spending close on £250,000 per job - hardly a sound investment. Since the downsizing, which means that it doesn't qualify as a 'national' project any longer, it needs £74 million. To date, it has been promised £37 million from the National Lottery, £10 million from Europe (providing they can prove that 60 per cent of their visitors are new visitors to the county) and various amounts from other small funds.

The downsizing process got rid of the reedbed sewage system, two of the four biomes, the scientific research, the education centre (the project has denied these accusations in the local papers, but what counts is what is currently at the planning department), the biomass boilers and about half the jobs. So, at the last

count, the project was promising between 100 and 150 jobs on completion, with as many as you like promised for the future. The new job creation sum looks like £74 million divided by 150 potential jobs, which equals another very unsound investment.

The Eden Project has been, from the word go, a destructive, pointless fiasco. In addition, the project has had a lot of problems in securing private-sector funding, the mark of a viable project. No-one with money to invest is going to invest it in a dead duck. The criteria for investment from public funding bodies, on the other hand, is quite different. They might want you to exemplify the true spirit of the next millennium (or possibly the spirit of the one that we are all very glad to leave behind) but they do not necessarily put profits at the top of their list.

Because the project found it had a financial shortfall, and the time had come to stump up the money to buy the Bodelva pit, the project leant on the County. This is where the project organisers should really receive a pat on the back. Because they had played the project up as being the eighth wonder of the world, because they said it would put Cornwall "on the map" and because they had promised such high job-creation figures, they won the public support of both the County and the Borough. In a closed session of the Policy Resources Committee of Cornwall County Council, a small group sanctioned the giving of £3 million to the project to help it buy the pit. They described the money as a 'loan', though no repayments are

In the name of the environment, the Eden Project is destroying important wildlife sites.

requested before the site is up and running, and only then i f they are showing a profit.

Yet, despite a huge grant from the tax revenues of the UK's poorest county, the project is still short of funds. So it has now advertised the fact that it is actively seeking partners from multinational biotech companies, inviting them to join with Eden in plant research programmes. Two years ago, I asked Eden's head of horticulture, Philip McMillan Browse, formerly of Kew Gardens, what Eden's policy was on genetic engineering. He replied that there was much good work going on in the realms of animal modification, so why not extend this to the plant world? So much for sustainability.

Cornwall has an excellent and hardworking anti-GMO group called GAFF (Genetically Altered Food Fiasco). I asked GAFF i f they would engage the project to establish what its standpoint was on GMOs. GAFF communicated with the project and received several replies. On no occasion did the project say that it would not engage in genetic modification research. It carefully circumnavigated the subject and left itself on show as a project that was prepared to engage in "any science that could benefit man and the planet".

At the time of writing, the site is still a china clay pit. McAlpine, the project's developer, is pushing a lot of claysand around to establish the foundations. Despite the requirement of the Millennium Commission that a Millennium Project must open in the year 2000/2001, The Eden Project is planning to be operational by 2002. That gives them about a year and a half to build the eighth wonder of the world on a sloppy bed of liquid clay. And in another destructive move, McAlpine bulldozed the land for the road route during the bird-nesting season, although the first visitor to the site will not need access for perhaps another two years.

The Eden Project has been, from the word go, a destructive, pointless fiasco. So what will happen i f it goes on like this? I f they don't fulfil the time requirement, as laid down by the Millennium Commission; i f it is discovered that the overwhelming tide of public opinion is against them; i f it is proven that they are neither a sustainable development nor environmentally-friendly (neither of which is hard to do) - will they have their funding withdrawn? I doubt it they are too big a fish in a small pool.n Dorienne Robinson is an active Green Party campaigner in the county of Cornwall.

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The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 5, August/September 1999 The CAP Doesn't Fit The Common Agricultural Policy is as damaging to the European environment as ever - but politicians still shirk from radical reform.

IBy Ros Coward

t's strange that in the same week of March this year, European ministers were able readily to agree to war against Serbia but came to blows over the reform of European finances, especially over the critical issue of reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Such was their acrimony on this issue that attempts at radical change were quickly abandoned in favour of minimal, watered-down reforms.

Perhaps it would be more appropriate to describe this as ironic than strange. For the failure to agree reform of the CAP in favour of more environmentallyfriendly, more sustainable agriculture could be interpreted as just as great a betrayal of internationally agreed treaties as Milosevic's breaking of the agreements over Kosovo. At the Rio Earth Summit, after all, most European governments signed up to support the Biodiversity Convention. But this appears not to be worth the paper it is written on i f governments fail to put them at the front of their thinking when it is both timely and expedient to do so. And nothing could have offered a more important opportunity than reforming European agricultural practice.

CAP reform is one of those issues guaranteed to make the eyes glaze over. It seems impossible to discuss the subject without getting bogged down in its complexities, and most people feel that these pan-European taxes - their levying and distribution - affect them in such marginal ways as not to be worth the considerable effort of trying to penetrate their complexities. Yet it is the Common Agricultural Policy - not road-building or urbanisation - which has been the single most destructive force for British environment and wildlife over the last 25 years.

It is the practice of intensive farming which has led to the countryside being doused in pesticides, hugely damaging the complex ecology which once flourished there. Ninety per cent of damage to protected wildlife sites has been caused by farming, as in spring 1997 when farmer Justin Harmer ploughed parts of Offham Down SSSI to grow flax, a crop for which EU subsidies of almost £600 a

hectare are available.

The huge monocultures encouraged by subsidies for arable farming have been responsible for the destruction of species-rich environments. The biggest blow to bird populations was delivered when farmers abandoned the practice of ploughing back winter stubble into the ground in the spring in favour of burning off the stubble to grow a second crop. This change devastated the populations of ground-feeding birds that previously survived through the winter on the fallen grain.

Intensive farming and monocultures have also been responsible for the loss of 50,000 kilometres of hedgerows, which previously sustained a huge variety of birds, plants and insects, and for the draining of flood meadows and marshes which has all but wiped out once abundant species of lapwing. East Anglia,

It is the Common Agricultural Policy - not road-building or urbanisation - which has been the single most destructive force for British environment and wildlife over the last 25 years. which once sustained a huge variety of different bird and mammal species, is now a green desert. Even the most unobservant have begun to notice the effects, wondering why they no longer see the black clouds of flocking lapwing or why the dawn chorus, once such a deafening and miraculous performance, has now been reduced to a few cheeps and the odd coo.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) points out that birds are key indicators of a healthy environment, and that tthe catastrophic decline in the bird populations in the last decade is a symptom of a real sickness. The skylark and the song thrush have declined by 75 and 66 per cent respectively since the 1970s, while the lapwing population has been halved in the last 11 years. They have no doubt about the culprits, and have moved into campaigning very directly for reform of the CAP in more environmentally-sym­

pathetic ways, claiming that the central principle of the CAP - that farmers should be subsidised to maximise agricultural output - irrespective of market forces, has flogged the countryside to within an inch of its life.

The case against this kind of farming and its effect on wildlife is cast iron. Nor is this its only negative effect. The Common Agricultural Policy, which is expensive for the individual taxpayer, is grossly unfair, allocating subsidies on the basis of amount of land in use for arable farming. It was introduced to increase 'efficiency' and productivity in agriculture after the war, and was certainly effective in ensuring that Europe would not have to be reliant on food imports.

What this has meant in practice, however, is that the larger the amount of land given over to cereal production, the larger the handout, so that the already rich grain barons are receiving the bulk of the subsidies. This has driven up the price of land and in effect destroyed the possibility of small-scale agriculture. Even the grain barons themselves have begun to note the absurdities, Lord de Ramsey pointing out in a recent House of Lords debate that he was grateful for his halfmillion pound pay cheque for growing cereal. The case against the quality of the food provided is also well known.

So it is shocking that, in spite of heavy lobbying and clear alternative proposals from various environmental organisations, the government has failed to fight this cause. Tony Blair came back from the European Heads of State meeting in March crowing about preserving the British rebate. But, says Jim Dixon of the RSPB, he couldn't have got a worse deal on CAP. He had done nothing to shift compensation to farmers from wasteful over-production of certain foods into schemes which would support sustainable food production (organic farming), and which would compensate farmers for protecting or enhancing the environment and for helping tackle rural unemployment. Critically, no timetable was agreed for scaling-down subsidies to both arable and livestock farming. Indeed, shockingly, farmers now have guarantees that compensation for arable areas will continue for the next six years.

The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 5, August/September 1999

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