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Towards an integrated assessment tool for European agricultural and environmental policies


The European Commission asked for the development of an integrated computer toolkit for an ex ante assessment for effective and efficient agricultural and environmental policies for the EU-25 in a changing Europe and world. Thirty research institutes from thirteen European countries are involved in this project ‘Seamless’. The project is coordinated by Wageningen University. The project, with a total budget of 15 million Euro, plans to deliver a first prototype within 18 months and in four years time the system should be fully operational. A kick-off meeting for Seamless is held this week in Lund, Sweden.

More than ever before, adequate agricultural and environmental policies at EU, national and regional scale are needed that can facilitate agriculture’s contribution to sustainable development. Ex-ante assessment of new policies (i.e., assessment before their introduction) is essential to ensure their effectiveness and efficiency. This is even more evident when taking into account that roughly 40% of the total EU budget is used for the Common Agricultural Policy, and 40% of the European land surface is used for agriculture.

Rural areas in Europe will face major developments as a result of the continuous enlargement of the EU, changes in farm support payments (resulting in lower prices for e.g. milk and sugar beet) and liberalization of world trade as a consequence of negotiations in the World Trade Organization. Such changes interact with changes in the physical and natural environment (e.g. climate change, loss of biodiversity). Next to these European and global developments, society demands a green and clean landscape, and farming communities in rural areas are faced with continuous technological innovation. There is a growing awareness that agriculture’s contribution to sustainable development and a multifunctional land use is at stake.


The Integrated Project Seamless has been developed in response to a research and policy need formulated by the European Commission. This project aims at the development of an integrated system with computer models and approaches to assess alternative agricultural and environmental policy options. The project seeks to link European science to society. The computer system will include quantitative models that simulate effects of the biophysical environment and economic developments, next to procedures that enable assessment of qualitative aspects such as quality of life and visual landscape quality. The latest developments in Information Technology (IT) should facilitate the integration of models from a wide range of scientific domains. Interactive identification of the key indicators (e.g. for environmental pollution, economic performance or social acceptability) that can capture the relevant information associated with specific policy questions will be crucial.

Over 80 researchers of thirty institutions from thirteen European countries, including several new member states, are involved in the project. These institutions bring together a vast amount of knowledge and expertise from economic, environmental, agronomic, social and information technology disciplines. The project also includes co-operation with an African and an American research institute. The project is coordinated from Wageningen University by the chair group Plant Production Systems, in co-operation with the C.T. de Wit Graduate School for Production Ecology and Resource Conservation and the Agricultural Economics Research Institute (LEI).

Bouke de Vos | alfa
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