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BEES Xmas Market

BEES Xmas Market

The Belgian Ecosystem Services (BEES) network organized the third edition of the BEES X-mas Market. On the 13th of December 2016 people from academia, public administration and civil society, from Belgium and abroad, gathered together with one common interest: to discuss research, practice and policy on ecosystem services.

This year’s host, the Natural Capital Platform of the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at Ghent University gathered more than 30 different initiatives and organisations for an informal event to exchange ideas and learn from one another’s experiences. The public, given the host of the event, were mainly students from Ghent University. This gave the ELO the opportunity to inform and interact with the younger generation on the issues of today and challenges which await us in the future.

In honour of the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus + Programme for education, training, youth and sports, special attention was given to the Erasmus + projects in which the ELO participated, REVAB, CO-FARM and FEAL. In short, REVAB focuses on the reuse and valorisation of agricultural buildings through training based on real experiences. The CO-FARM project aims at enhancing cooperation amongst farming entrepreneurs by developing a flexible training system. Lastly, FEAL seeks to raise awareness of the worth and cultural value of multifunctional farming for the sustainability of the European agricultural landscapes.

ELO Innovation Conference

ELO Innovation Conference

This year’s Innovation Conference was titled “Cheap prices, high standards – is it possible? European Consumers’ attitudes towards innovation and food”.

In 2016, the ELO’s annual innovation conference discussed the gap between the current consumer expectations and the agricultural sector’s capabilities.

The expectation of the European consumer seems to rise every year, not just in terms of food safety, but also in its locality, quality, and high food safety standards – however there is a general unwillingness for consumers to pay the costs associated with these standards. Acknowledging the contradictory expectations of the consumers, this year’s Innovation Conference provided a platform to discuss these issues, and examined whether or not the innovation that could fill the gap between price expectation and quality demand could be fulfilled through new technologies.

Panelists from the industrial sector, the academics and civil society expressed their concerns for the present public perception of farmers and the lack of communication between both parties.  

Europe’s current attitude to some agricultural technologies has the power to scare away the next generation of innovation. Fortunately for the farming community, Europe has fewer issues regarding the application of digital technology to agriculture. The presented digital precision farming tools have proven to contribute to a farmer’s efforts in biodiversity and environmentally friendly farming. The possibility to produce measurable differences through the technology is an added positive; as such topics are among the core concerns of today’s consumer. However not all innovative measures are connected to technology. “Natural farming” is one such example, including innovative solutions such as rice field margins and allowing biological processes, such as feeding birds, instead of using chemical insecticides.

Panelists and audience discussed the public opinion on the use of biotech in farming and whether digital technology is at risk to develop a similar negative public opinion; the decreasing influence of farmers in the food chain and how to reduce the distance between farmers and consumers.

The ELO’s Innovation Conference will return in 2017.

This conference was supported by BASF, Yara and Deutz-Fahr.

Land Access and Property Rights

Land Access and Property Rights

The ELO is founded on the belief that private property rights and a well-functioning land market are fundamental in delivering both sustainability and profitability in the European countryside.

Over the last two years, the debate on land accessibility and property rights has resurfaced in Europe. A multitude of events and developments have given rise to this debate, ranging from excessive government intervention in the price of farmland, but also the establishment of the Four Freedoms of Europe and land prices in a globally competitive market.

Most EU Member States have certain regulations regarding their national land markets. However, such measures should not disturb fundamental market mechanisms which ensure an optimally productive agricultural sector – above all, they must avoid creating political preference and clientelism. Furthermore, while Member States may set parameters, these should never interfere with European laws and freedoms. Those Member States currently involved in preferring national solutions to European principles are not acting out of strength, but rather show weakness in their distrust of both the EU and market forces.

The key to resolving land access issues should not be found in artificial manipulations of land markets or in nationalism, but rather to improve (access to) financial services and structures so that especially young and new farmers can enter the market. In doing so, existing land markets can operate more efficiently and the new rural activities may be deployed.

The ELO believes that any discussion on the scale of farming in Europe should focus on what is productive and sustainable, and not on absolute farm sizes. Current discussions on land access are dangerously mixing different technologies and preferring emotion over reason; such argumentation represents a threat to private property rights and the instincts of countryside entrepreneurs – one does not grow one’s business in a climate of uncertainty. The EU must work together with its countryside and support the best and most sustainable entrepreneurs, not perform social experiments and support unviable enterprises.

In 2017, the ELO will continue to advocate for strong property rights that are independent of the size of the agricultural or forestry holding, and welcomes any chance to expand on its point of view.

For more information do not hesitate to contact our team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Climate Change

Climate Change

In 2016 the Paris Climate Change agreement was officially ratified. The agreement that sets out a global action plan, to put the world on track, to avoid dangerous climate change, by limiting global warming to well below 2°C.

Later in the year, during the COP22 in Marrakesh, nearly 200 countries backed the implementation of the Paris agreement, labelling it is an “urgent duty” and pledging to mobilise at least US$100 billion (€94.15) per year. The tough work starts now as parties must implement the agreement, which has been made more uncertain after the 2016 US presidential elections.  

The ELO has been an active participant in this process, starting with the publication of the paper entitled “Climate Change and the rural economy: managing land in the face of climate change” before the meeting in Paris, where the ELO participated.

The agreement puts more pressure on governments to act and led the EU Commission to publish a set of proposals for the transition to a low-carbon economy, including in the buildings, agriculture, waste, land-use and forestry sectors. This is part of the EU’s efforts to reduce its GHG emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, which now, for the first time, includes the greenhouse gas emissions and removals from land use and forestry. It sets out accounting rules and allows for certain flexibilities.

The ELO has been discussing this issue internally and with other stakeholders and will continue to do so in 2017 when the legislative proposal is to be discussed in the European Parliament. The ENVI Committee will take the lead, having appointed Norbert LINSMEP as rapporteur. The vote in the ENVI Committee is expected in June 2017.

The agreement brought great momentum to raise the profile of landowners who are investing in a climate-proof agriculture and who are already managing their land for both adaption and mitigation of climate change. Their efforts have already resulted in the reduction of GHG emissions while keeping productivity levels. However only with renewed efforts is this trend likely to continue.

Agricultural Innovation


The ELO believes strongly that only continuous innovation in the agricultural sector can deliver the results needed for Europe’s land managers; a flourishing farm business at a time of unstable commodity and energy prices, better results for our ecosystems, and plenty of safe food for Europe’s demanding consumers. To meet these challenges, the modern farm business should not just embrace the latest tools and technologies, but also work out his or her own innovate practices. This quest, therefore, does not just take place in the laboratories of agricultural industries, but very much in the fields of our members. 

Over the last few years, the EU has shown increased support to integrate the concept of innovation into European policy. In 2013, the European Commission set up the European Innovation Partnership (EIP) which is acting “across the whole research and innovation chain, bringing together all relevant actors at EU, national and regional levels”. This is in addition to the Horizon 2020 programme, which is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020). Horizon 2020 is the financial instrument implementing the Innovation Union, a Europe 2020 flagship initiative aimed at securing Europe's global competitiveness. The ELO is currently involved in multiple H2020 projects.

In 2016, the ELO continued to push for more and better access to agricultural innovation. One of the main sticking points remains the non-appearance of the EC’s legal opinion whether or not a new generation of plant breeding techniques will be classified as GM technology, and thus subject to much stricter, even prohibitive, regulation. The ELO believes that, whatever the opinion should state, this should be published as soon as possible in order to create clarity.

2017 will (hopefully) see the release of the abovementioned legal opinion, along with the implementation of the Circular Economy Package, including new measures on (drinking) water and re-cycling and re-use. We can also expect to see new drives towards innovation regarding the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the delivery of the Paris Climate Summit.

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