News

14.03.2018 |

Arctic seed vault turns ten, now storing over 1 million seed samples

Seed Vault
Svalbard Global Seed Vault (Photo: Matthias Heyde, bit.ly/Heyde, bit.ly/ccbynd20)

The seed samples stored in the Arctic seed vault have surpassed the 1 million mark as the world’s largest seed collection celebrates its tenth anniversary. On February 26, Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway received over 76,000 new seed samples for long-term storage, bringing the total number of unique crop varieties deposited in the last decade up to 1,059,646 samples. The large concrete construction is hosted deep inside a mountain on a remote island in the Svalbard archipelago, halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. “It is simply impressive that 1 million seed samples from all over the world have now found their way to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault,” Norway’s Minister of Agriculture and Food, Jon Georg Dale, said in a statement. “It confirms the important role of the seed vault as a worldwide insurance for food supply for future generations and an ever-growing population.”

On the occasion of the tenth anniversary, representatives from 23 international gene banks gathered in Longyearbyen at the seed vault and brought with them 179 boxes with 76,330 new crop varieties. New seed samples were deposited from The World Vegetable Center in Taiwan, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Lebanon and Morocco as well as the International Potato Center in Peru, just to name a few seed banks. Among the crops deposited were duplicate seeds of vital staples like rice, wheat and maize. Other important crops stored in the vault were black-eyed pea (cowpea), a major protein source in Africa and South Asia, along with samples of sorghum, pearl millet and pigeon pea. The lesser-known crops that were safely stored in the vault included Bambara groundnut, which is being developed as a drought tolerant crop in parts of Africa, and the so-called Estonian onion potato, as well a varieties of beans unique to the eastern European country.

The Svalbard Global Seed Vault first opened its doors on February 26, 2008 as a backup facility for the world’s seed banks. It is owned by the Norwegian Government and operated under a three-party agreement between the Norwegian Government, NordGen and the Crop Trust. The vault has a full capacity of 4.5 million different seed types. While the total number of unique crop varieties deposited over the last 10 years is 1,059,646, there are currently only 967,216 crop varieties in the vault. This is due to the fact that in 2015 and 2017, ICARDA requested some of its deposits of wheat, lentil, chickpea and other crops because its own seed bank in Syria became unable to operate due to civil conflict. Thanks to the seeds deposited in the seed storage facility, ICARDA was able to re-establish its research and conservation work at its sites in Lebanon and Morocco and has since then managed to duplicate and return thousands of these varieties to Svalbard.

“The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is an iconic reminder of the remarkable conservation effort that is taking place every day, around the world and around the clock – an effort to conserve the seeds of our food crops,” said Marie Haga, Executive Director of the Crop Trust. “Safeguarding such a huge range of seeds means scientists will have the best chance of developing nutritious and climate-resilient crops that can ensure future generations don’t just survive, but thrive,” she added. However, the seed vault also needs conservation efforts: In 2017, melting permafrost caused by unusually warm temperatures risked flooding the vault. Although the water did not reach the frozen chambers deep within where the seeds are stored, reinforcements are underway to prepare the construction for the consequences of climate change. Norway has recently announced it will spend 100 million Norwegian Crowns ($12.7 million) to upgrade the doomsday seed vault. The project includes the construction of a new, concrete-built access tunnel to make sure the seed vault remains dry. (ab)

08.03.2018 |

UN Women: Action is needed to empower rural women

Rural women
Rural women ensure food security for their communities (Photo: CC0)

On almost every measure of development, rural women fare worse than rural men or urban women. They are disproportionately affected by poverty and unequal access to land and natural resources, infrastructure and services, and decent work and social protection, according to UN Women, the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2018, UN Women draws attention to the rights and activism of rural women, who make up over a quarter of the world population and majority of the 43 per cent of women in the global agricultural labour force. Under this year’s theme “Time is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives”, they put a spotlight on the tireless work of activists who are fighting relentlessly for women’s rights worldwide.

UN Women highligts that rural women till the lands and plant seeds to feed nations, ensure food security for their communities and build climate resilience. Yet, compared to men, women and girls are still more severely affected by poverty and hunger. Their access to education, land and natural resources, water, livestock and machinery is often restricted due to deep seated gender inequalities and discrimination. For instance, less than 20 per cent of landholders worldwide are women, and while the global pay gap between men and women stands at 23 per cent, in rural areas, it can be as high as 40 per cent. Rural women lack infrastructure and services, decent work and social protection, and are left more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

UN Women stresses that decisive action is needed if we want to make the promise of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) a reality. Goal 2 aims at ending all forms of malnutrition and addressing the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women as well as doubling the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women by 2030. Goal 5 explicitly wants to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls everywhere. However, much more needs to be done in rural areas to ensure an adequate standard of living, a life free of violence and harmful practices for rural women, as well as their access to land and productive assets, food security and nutrition, decent work, education and health. But there is also good news: UN Women says that rural women and their organizations already represent an enormous potential, and they are on the move to claim their rights and improve their livelihoods and wellbeing. They are using innovative agricultural methods, setting up successful businesses and acquiring new skills, pursuing their legal entitlements and running for office. (ab)

05.03.2018 |

Neonic pesticides harm bees, European watchdog confirms

Bees
Neonics harm wild bees and honeybees (Photo: CC0)

Neonicotinoid pesticides pose a serious threat to wild bees and honeybees, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has found. In a report published on Wednesday, the European watchdog updated its previous risk assessments of three neonicotinoids – clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiamethoxam – that are currently subject to restrictions in the EU because they harm bees. For the new assessments, which this time cover wild bees – bumblebees and solitary bees – as well as honeybees, EFSA’s Pesticides Unit collected and analysed 588 new studies. Altogether, EFSA considered more than 1,500 studies for the assessment. “There is variability in the conclusions, due to factors such as the bee species, the intended use of the pesticide and the route of exposure,” EFSA said. “Some low risks have been identified, but overall the risk to the three types of bees we have assessed is confirmed,” the watchdog concluded.

Scientists and environmentalists, many of whom had long warned against the use of neonics, welcomed the assessment. “This is an important announcement by EFSA that most uses of neonicotinoids are a risk to all bee species,” said Prof Christopher Connolly, who teaches Neurobiology at the University of Dundee. “Importantly they identify that high risk does not result from direct exposure to non-flowering crops, but to subsequent indirect exposure from field margins, adjacent crops and succeeding crops,” he added. Prof Dave Goulson, Professor of Biology at the University of Sussex, said that “in essence, the new EFSA report concludes that neonicotinoids are very likely to be harming both wild and domesticated bees.” He stressed that this time the evidence was stronger than in 2013. “The report also highlights remaining knowledge gaps, which are considerable. This is inevitable, given that there are nearly 2,000 species of bee in Europe, most of which have never been studied with regard to impacts of pesticides.”

The EFSA report is considered as crucial to whether the European moratorium on neonicotinoid use that was introduced in 2013 is to remain in place. In March 2017, the European Commission proposed a ban on the three neonicotinoids, except when they are used in greenhouses. On 22 March, its Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed will discuss the new EFSA assessment. “This is strengthening the scientific basis for the Commission’s proposal to ban outdoor use of the three neonicotinoids,” a spokeswoman for the Commission was quoted by Reuters. Environmental campaigners are calling for a complete ban of the use of neonicotinoids. “The evidence is overwhelming that bees, and the crops and plants they pollinate, are at dire risk from neonicotinoid pesticides,” said Franziska Achterberg, EU food policy adviser for Greenpeace. “National governments must stop dithering and back the proposed EU neonicotinoid ban as the first step to prevent the catastrophic collapse of bee populations,” she added. (ab)

28.02.2018 |

EU agri-food exports and imports reach new record high

Ship
EU exports increased by 5.1% in 2017 (Photo: CC0)

In 2017, EU agri-food exports reached a new record high: The 28 countries exported €137.9bn worth of food, drinks and agricultural products. This is an increase of 5.1% in value terms compared to 2016, according to the latest monthly trade report published on February 20 by the European Commission. The main destination for EU agri-food exports is the US market. The United States bought goods worth €21.9bn in 2017, followed by China (€11.9bn), Switzerland (€8.2bn), Russia (€6.5bn) and Japan (€6.4bn). Sales to the US increased by 6% (or €1.22bn), while Russian exports rose by 16% (up €0.9bn). The top selling categories are wine, vermouth, cider and vinegar (€11.9bn), followed by spirits and liqueurs (€10.7bn) as well as infant food and other preparations of cereals, flour, starch or milk (€7.3bn). One of the main export goods is milk powder: The EU exported milk powder worth €4.4bn in 2017, an increase of 26% compared to the previous year. On the other hand, wheat and other cereals and pig meat exports decreased over the last 12 months in 2017.

EU agri-food imports also increased but at a slower pace than exports. Agri-food imports from third countries in 2017 accounted for EUR 117.4 billion. This is an increase of 4.5% compared to 2016 data. Nevertheless, driven by the stronger export performance over the 12-months period, the export surplus now stands at EUR 20.5 billion. This represents a growth of 9% over last year and the 8th consecutive year of agricultural trade surplus, the Commission said. Main origins for EU agri-food imports over the past 12 months were Brazil (€11.8 billion), the US (€11.0 billion) and Argentina (€5.7 billion). The two most important single product categories for imports into the EU were tropical fruit, fresh or dried, nuts and spices, being worth €13.7bn. as well as unroasted coffee and tee (€7.8bn). Other important import commodities were oilcakes (€7.3bn), palm and palm kernel oil (€6.5bn), soybeans (€4.1bn) and oilseeds other than soybeans (€4.1bn).

These are just the mere trade figures but the imports of agricultural commodities also comes along with the „virtual import“ of large areas of arable land in other parts of the world. A study, published in 2012 by the World Wide Fund For Nature, found that the agricultural commodities imported by the EU have occupied an area abroad of more than 30 million hectares since the start of the new millennium. Almost half of this land is occupied by soybeans and soy products. According to recent figures by the European Environment Agency (EEA), the EU's net imports of soybeans and soybean products for animal feed and oil production amounted to around 27 million tonnes in 2013. This means that Europe is heavily dependent on overseas land for its own livestock production, most of which is in South America. EEA calculates that soybean land use from EU imports in South America amounted to 8.8 million hectares in 2011, an area larger than Austria. Another 1.3 million hectares of land in the United States were used for soybean production to feed farm animals in the EU. (ab)

23.02.2018 |

Organic is booming: 57.8 million hectares worldwide farmed organically

Orgnic
The organic market is booming (Photo: CC0)

Organic farming is on the rise across the globe. A total of 57.8 million hectares were farmed organically at the end of 2016, representing a growth of almost 7.5 million hectares or 15% compared to the previous year. These are the latest figures of the statistical yearbook “The World of Organic Agriculture” published by the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) and IFOAM – Organics International. The study collects data on 178 countries reporting organic farming activities. Almost 47% of the global organic agricultural land is in Oceania (27.3 million hectares), followed by Europe with 13.5 million hectares (23%) and Latin America with 7.1 million hectares (12%). Australia has the largest agricultural area farmed organically with 27.2 million hectares, followed by Argentina with 3 million hectares and China with 2.3 million hectares. The three countries with the largest share of organic farmland in the world are Liechtenstein (37.7%), French Polynesia (31.3%) and Samoa (22.4%). In Austria, 21.9% of the farmland is organic and in Estonia and Sweden, the figures are 18.9% and 18% respectively. In fifteen countries, 10% or more of all agricultural land was under organic management in 2016 – a new record.

According to the report, there were 2.7 million organic farmers in 2016. Around 40% of the world’s organic producers live in Asia, followed by Africa (27%) and Latin America (17%). As in previous years, the country with most organic producers was India (835,000), followed by Uganda (210,352) and Mexico (210,000). Consumer demand for organic products is also increasing across the globe. Global retail sales of organic food and drink reached 89.7 billion US dollars in 2016, up from 81.6 billion US dollars in 2015. The countries with the largest organic markets were the United States (38.9 billion euros), followed by Germany (9.5 billion euros), France (6.7 billion euros) and China (5.9 billion euros). The top buyers of organic food worldwide live in Switzerland. Swiss consumers spent 274 euros per person on organic products in 2016, while consumers in Denmark spent 227 euros and people in Sweden 197 euros. Looking at the shares the organic market has of the total market, the winner is Denmark with a share of 9.7%, just ahead of Luxembourg with 8.7%.

According to the publishers of the report, the latest figures are good news since organic farming achieved more area, more producers and a continuously growing global market in 2016. “Growing markets also mean higher added value on millions of farms. And it means 57.8 million hectares of increased soil fertility, farm and field diversity and billions of farm animals raised under animal welfare standards,” the directors of FiBL and IFOAM wrote in the foreword to the report. “This is an important contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations,” they conclude. (ab)

19.02.2018 |

Herbicide use drives the evolution of herbicide-resistant weeds, study

Black
Black-grass in a barley crop (Photo: CC0, bit.ly/Alop, bit.ly/cc-by-sa30)

Spraying weeds with chemicals has always come at a high cost, both to farmers and the environment. But using herbicides to control weeds is also driving the evolution of herbicide-resistant crops, new research shows. According to a study, led by scientists from the University of Sheffield, farms that use a greater volume of herbicide have more crop resistance to herbicides. Future control of weeds must depend on management strategies that reduce reliance on chemicals, the researchers argue. For the study, published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution, the research team mapped the density of the UK’s major agricultural weed, black-grass (Alopecurus myosuroides) across 70 farms in England, collecting seed from 132 fields. They also collected historical management data for all fields to find out which management factors are driving black-grass abundance and herbicide resistance.

The researchers surveyed 24,824 quadrats in the UK – small areas of habitat selected at random as samples for assessing the local distribution of plants and animals. They found that, black-grass has become a widespread weed present in 88% of the quadrats monitored by the researchers. 32% of quadrats contained high or very high densities of black-grass. It has spread northward in recent years and the scientists found the weed in areas where it had not been found in previous decades. “The driver for this spread is evolved herbicide resistance: we found that weeds in fields with higher densities are more resistant to herbicides,” said the lead author of the study, Professor Rob Freckleton from the University of Sheffield. “Once resistance has evolved it does not seem to go away: two years later, fields with high densities still had high densities, despite farmers employing a suite of different management techniques. This is confirmed by co-author Paul Neve, a weed biologist at Rothamsted. “Resistance is a major driver for black-grass population expansion in England,” notes Neve. “80% of sampled populations were highly resistant to all herbicides that can be used for selective black-grass control in a wheat crop,” he added.

The researchers found that increasing resistance is linked to the number of herbicide applications. “The results were simple: farms that used a greater volume of herbicide had more resistance,” said Professor Freckleton. Diversifying management and the range of chemicals used did not prevent resistance developing, the team report. “A major imminent threat to food production is the growing reliance on glyphosate as a weed management tool,” the researchers warn in their study. “Resistance to glyphosate is already present in eight different countries. How long it will take for resistance to glyphosate to become near universal is uncertain, but in evolutionary terms it is inevitable unless standard management practices change.” The researchers stress the importance of reducing the evolution of resistance. They recommend that farmers switch to weed-management strategies that rely less on herbicides, as it is inevitable that weeds will overcome even new products. (ab)

13.02.2018 |

France withdraws from New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition

Farmer
More support for family farmers is needed (Photo: CC0)

France will withdraw from the controversial G7 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN). The decision was announced at the Interministerial Committee for International Cooperation and Development (CICID) on 8 February. Since its launch in 2012, the New Alliance has been heavily criticised by development organisations. They argue that the initiative favours the interest of transnational agribusiness corporations to the detriment of peasant agriculture. It has been denounced by hundreds of organisations for its negative impacts on food security and small-scale farmers in the ten African countries in which the initiative operates. In 2016, even the European Parliament slammed the G7 project. In a report adopted by the parliament’s development committee, the alliance was criticised for benefiting agribusiness while posing a threat to small-scale farmers and the environment. The initiative, which aims to bring 50 million people in Subsaharan Africa out of poverty by 2022 by enabling investment in the agricultural sector, is supported by multinationals such as Cargill, Monsanto or Louis Dreyfus.

France explained the move with the fact that an assessment of the impacts of NAFSN’s implementation in Burkina Faso had shown mixed results. An independent evaluation of the programme, carried out by researchers at the Centre for International Cooperation in Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD), focussed in particular on the Bagré project, 200 km southeast of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso’s capital. “The measures taken there to free up land for future investors caused profound changes in food security and food consumption practices,” the daily Le Monde Afrique quoted from the report. The project intends to introduce large-scale artificial irrigation. But small-scale farmers who depend on rainfed agriculture to cultivate their staple crops fear that they will be deprived of their land. “The situation of family farmers is today very tense compared to the conditions offered to agribusiness, generating a strong feeling of injustice,” the CIRAD experts write. “The approach of this initiative is too ideological and there is a real risk of land grabbing to the detriment of small farmers,” a French Foreign Ministry official close to the case was quoted in Le Monde. According to a paper summarising the results of the CICID meeting, France will instead “strengthen its support for inclusive rural development and family farming, mainly in Africa and in particular in the Sahel, through an agro-ecological intensification, by improving nutrition of the population and through territorial and sectoral approaches.”

French development organisations welcomed the step. Action Against Hunger, the CCFD-Terre Solidaire and Oxfam France said the withdrawal should be taken into account by other NAFSN partners, such as the European Union and African States. Germany, another main contributor to the NAFSN, should also pull out of the initiative. The organisations warn that the so-called “magic bullet” of mixing public-private partnerships and legislative reforms to create an enabling environment for transnational companies’ investments, as promoted by the New Alliance, is not the solution to fight hunger. “On the contrary, it goes against the interest of local populations, marginalises family farms – although they produce 70% of the global food items – to the benefit of a few transnational companies which are given all the facilities : finance, taxes, land tenure,” they said in a press release. The NGOs stress that they have repeatedly documented the negative consequences of such a system in Burkina Faso or in Ivory Coast: land grabbing, peasants’ debt, introduction of GMO crops and settlement of growth corridors which are actually agricultural tax heavens. According to the three organisations, France must learn from this failure and no longer engage in investment projects and similar initiatives. “The withdrawal from NAFSN must be the signal for a genuine rethink,” they said. “In coherence with this decision, the 400 million euros France annually affects to food security in countries of the Global South should entirely go to the development of peasant agroecology.” (ab)

29.01.2018 |

World food prices up 8.2% in 2017, says UN food agency

Cereals
Cereal prices rose 3.2% in 2017 (Photo: CC0)

Global food prices rose by 8.2% in 2017 compared to the previous year, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned. The FAO Food Price Index, which measures monthly changes in international prices of a basket of food commodities, reached the highest annual average since 2014. According to the latest FAO Food Price Index issued on January 11, global food prices in December 2017 declined by 3.3% from November, led by sharp decreases for vegetable oils and dairy products. However, despite the decrease last month, the Food Price Index averaged 174.6 points in 2017, compared to 161.5 points in 2016 and 164 points in 2015. However, food prices were still 24% below the 2011 high of almost 230 points.

While sugar prices fell in 2017, dairy and meat prices registered sharp year-on-year increases, the UN food agency said. The Dairy Price Index was 31.5% higher over the whole of 2017 than the previous year, jumping from 153.8 to 202.2 points. Meat prices in 2017 rose by 9%, but remained 4.7% below the average for the preceding five years. Ovine meat registered the largest increase, followed by pigmeat, poultry and beef. The FAO Cereal Price Index was 3,2% higher in 2017 than in 2016, climbing from 146.9 to 151.6 points. However, world cereals prices were still 37% lower than during the peak in 2011, when the index soared to 240.9 points. Sugar prices were 11.2% lower, on average, in 2017 than in 2016, due largely to a bumper harvest in Brazil, the world’s leading producer. The prospects for 2018 are still uncertain. FAO senior economist Abdolreza Abbassian told Reuters that it was too early in the year to predict what effect weather conditions would have on harvests. He said that oil prices are also driving developments. “If oil prices are the highest in a couple of years, all you need is some sort of unexpected development in one of the big oil producing countries to see a spike in oil and that would definitely spill over to other commodities,” Abbassian said. He projects that the new year is going to be “a little more uncertain, a little more volatile and unpredictable”. (ab)

25.01.2018 |

World’s richest 1% get 82% of wealth generated in 2017, Oxfam says

Poor
Global income growth - who benefits? (Photo: CC0)

82% of the wealth generated in 2017 went to the top 1% the world’s population, while the 3.7 billion people who make up the poorest half saw no increase at all. This is the finding of a new report published by the charity organisation Oxfam ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The report ‘Reward Work, Not Wealth’ reveals how the global economy enables a wealthy elite to accumulate vast fortunes while hundreds of millions of people are struggling to survive. According to Oxfam, last year the number of billionaires rose at an unprecedented rate, one more every two days. There are now 2,043 dollar billionaires worldwide. In 12 months, the wealth of this elite group has increased by $762bn. This would have been enough money to end extreme poverty in the world seven times over. While billionaire wealth has risen by an annual average of 13% since 2010, the wages of ordinary workers have increased by a yearly average of just 2%. “The billionaire boom is not a sign of a thriving economy but a symptom of a failing economic system,” said Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International. “The people who make our clothes, assemble our phones and grow our food are being exploited to ensure a steady supply of cheap goods, and swell the profits of corporations and billionaire investors.”

The report says it takes just four days for a CEO from one of the top five global fashion brands to earn what a Bangladeshi garment worker will earn in her lifetime. Shareholders and corporate bosses benefit at the expense of workers’ pay and conditions. According to Oxfam, the key drivers behind this trend are the erosion of workers’ rights; the excessive influence of big business over government policy-making; and the relentless corporate drive to minimize costs in order to maximize returns to shareholders. Across the world, women consistently earn less than men, not only at the top where 9 out of 10 billionaires are men. A disproportionately large share of women remain trapped in low pay and poverty wages, working in least secure forms of work. “Oxfam has spoken to women across the world whose lives are blighted by inequality,” explains Byanyima. “Women in Vietnamese garment factories who work far from home for poverty pay and don’t get to see their children for months at a time. Women working in the US poultry industry who are forced to wear nappies because they are denied toilet breaks.”

Oxfam calls on governments to create a more equal society by prioritizing ordinary workers and small-scale food producers instead of the rich and powerful. The organisation calls on governments to limit returns to shareholders and top executives, and ensure all workers receive a minimum ‘living’ wage that would enable them to have a decent quality of life. For example, in Nigeria, the legal minimum wage would need to be tripled to ensure good living standards. Oxfams also demands the elimination of the gender pay gap and better protection of the rights of women workers. It needs to be ensured that the rich pay their fair share of tax through higher taxes and a crackdown on tax avoidance. In addition, spending on public services such as healthcare and education must increase. Reducing inequality is not just a pipe dream of development organisations: In 2015, world leaders adopted a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Among other objectives, they commited to eradicating extreme poverty for all people everywhere by 2030, ending hunger and malnutrition and reducing inequalities within and among countries. With the report, Oxfam reminds them that it is now time for action. (ab)

23.01.2018 |

We are fed up!: 33,000 march in Berlin for a greener agricultural policy

March
33,000 took to Berlin’s streets (Photo: Alexander Puell/www.wir-haben-es-satt.de)

Over 33,000 people took to the streets of Berlin last Saturday, 20 January, to demand a new food and farming policy that benefits small farmers and protects the environment. Farmers, consumers, beekeepers and food activists joined the march that was led by 160 tractors and ended in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Equipped with colourful posters and creative costumes, they walked under this year’s motto “Stop the agro-industry!”. Many dressed up as cows or chickens, others buzzed across the city as bees or butterflies. A giant dead bee was floating in the air, lying on its back and carrying the slogan “Agroindustry kills”. Farmers from all across Germany had travelled for many hours by tractor to take part. The event was organised by a broad alliance of more than 100 farmers’, environmental, animal welfare and development organisations, known as “Wir haben es satt!” (we are fed up). It was the eighth year in a row that the protesters demand a fundamental chance of course in agriculture during the International Green Week – Europe’s biggest agricultural fair that currently takes places in Berlin.

The protesters called on the future German government to show courage and quickly introduce a greener agricultural policy. “The industrial food and farming industry is causing problems for farmers, the climate, animals and the environment, both at local and global level,” said a spokesman for the alliance, Jochen Fritz. “Politicians must not delay any longer the urgently needed conversion to an agricultural system that is friendly to the environment, animals and the climate and in which farmers can live well from their work,” Fritz added. Many protesters called for a ban on the controversial weed killer glyphosate. Others marched for animal welfare and less meat consumption, against the global close-down of small farms and against subsidies for the agro-industry. “Food is political - more and more people start to realize this. But politicians nurture an agricultural sector that detrimentally affects the environment and animals in the name of productivity,” Fritz said.

The organisations behind the march also demand a reform of the EU Common Agricultural Policy and call for an immediate end to subsidy payments for investors who buy up land without actually being farmers. “Farmers who cultivate the land in an environmentally-friendly way and operate ethical animal farms should be supported with direct-payment subsidies,” said Georg Janßen, the head of the farming association Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft. “The farmers are ready but politicians need to create the necessary framework. Especially small and medium-sized farms need more land,” Georg Janßen stressed. To make their voices heard, many demonstrators joined the march with pots and spoons for a noisy protest concert. (ab)

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