New legislation to restore and protect nature in European Union (EU) member states has been opposed by farmers claiming it will lead to the loss of agricultural land, Olive Oil Times wrote.

The new legislation was marginally approved by the European Parliament (EP), with 336 parliamentary votes in favour and 300 against, while 13 members of the parliament (MEPs) abstained from voting, the 17 August report said.

Put forward by the European Commission (EC), the ‘Nature Restoration Law’ was a core element of the EU’s 2030 Biodiversity Strategy, comprising a set of recommendations targeted at restoring Europe’s eco-systems, Olive Oil Times wrote.

According to the EC, more than 80% of Europe’s habitats are in poor condition. The commission also noted that every Euro invested in restoration would return €8-€38 (US$8.67-US$41.2) in eco-system services.

Under the new bill, described by the EC as “the first continent-wide, comprehensive law of its kind,” EU member states must introduce measures to restore nature on at least 20% of their land and sea area by 2030.

In addition, the measures must be expanded by 2050 to cover all eco-systems in need of restoration.

The day before the vote took place, hundreds of farmers demonstrated in front of the EP, calling on MEPs to reject the new law while climate activists – including Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg – urged MEPs to pass the law, the report said.

Previously rejected by the EP’s Fisheries and Agriculture committees, the bill had also failed to gain the necessary majority in the environment committee to move forward, Olive Oil Times wrote.

As a result, and according to standard procedure, the legislation was put to the parliament’s plenary vote with the recommendation to be scrapped.

However, the majority of EP members backed the bill.

“It’s a huge social victory,” César Luena, a centre-left MEP from Spain in charge of the proposal, was quoted as saying.

“This is a law on behalf of nature. It’s not a law against any person.”

The new bill was strongly opposed by the EP’s right-wing political groups, such as the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) – the EP’s largest group – and the far-right Identity and Democracy Group, the report said.

“Less land for farmers, less sea for fishermen, less activity for businesses, and fewer European products and jobs for our citizens,” Rosanna Conte, an Italian MEP from the Identity and Democracy group, was quoted as saying.

The bill approved by the EP was a watered-down version of the original law, with amendments to remove the restoration of European peatlands and delay the law’s application until an official assessment of European food security had been carried out, Olive Oil Times wrote.

EU farmers’ association Copa-Cogeca was quoted as saying the law remained “fundamentally ill-prepared, lacks a budget and will remain unimplementable for farmers and forest owners”.

Meanwhile, international environmental organisations welcomed the new regulation as a significant step towards protecting Europe’s nature, the report said.

“This vote shows that there is still hope to restore and grow what’s left,” Špela Bandelj, Greenpeace’s Central and Eastern Europe biodiversity project manager, was quoted as saying.

“As another unprecedented heatwave grips Europe, it’s clear that to survive climate breakdown and ensure food supplies, we’ll need nature on our side.”

The EP would now negotiate with member states to finalise the regulation provisions and, once the regulation was introduced, EU countries would be expected to submit national restoration plans to the EC within two years, the report said.