For at least the past decade, global institutions have been promoting sustainable intensification (SI) to raise yields with less environmental harm through a broad ‘toolkit’ including agroecological methods. In the European context, agri-intensification has diverse forms and policy agendas. SI has been advocated to help keep farmers on the land by making their cultivation methods more market-competitive, while conserving biodiversity elsewhere; this approach complements a land-sparing strategy. By contrast, a different intensification agenda promotes biodiverse agroecosystems, complementing a land-sharing strategy. The latter corresponds with an alliance of farmers and civil society organizations (CSOs) promoting agroecology to transform the dominant agro-food regime. In their efforts towards supportive policies, such alliances have gained larger budgets for agroecological methods in the EU’s R&D programmes. But their efforts at ‘greening the CAP’ have resulted in rules which still subsidize higher-yield practices without necessarily benefiting agri-biodiversity. By recognizing these tensions, practitioners can better develop strategies for intervening in various agri-policy arenas, even where SI remains implicit.