COMMUNICATIONS NEWS: Environmentalists lobby for change to food subsidies

The Queen of England is one of the biggest recipients of Common Agricultural Policy food subsidies.

This is one of the facts revealed by a new pan-European Friends of the Earth campaign launched last week. The environmental charity's year-long campaign called Food and Farming: time to choose, aims to pressurise national and European Commission ministers into speeding up the switch from direct food subsidies to supporting rural development such as local food co-operatives and tourism.

The European Union looks set to expand significantly in 2004 when 12 new European countries, including Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, are expected to join the community.

The Commission is reviewing the current subsidy system in preparation for the expansion, and Friends of the Earth hopes to influence ministers at a critical time.

A spokesman for the charity said: "France and the UK are already moving away from direct subsidies to rural development, but rural development support amounts to under 5 per cent at the moment. Friends of the Earth wants to see a level of 20 per cent."

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