The German government wants to protect insects better and completely ban the controversial weedkiller glyphosate by 2023. It also intends to introduce an animal welfare label and unlock additional funds for environmentally friendly CAP measures. EURACTIV Germany reports.
“We need more buzzing and humming again,” Environment Minister Svenja Schulze of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) told a press conference on Wednesday (4 September), after her action plan for insect protection was approved by the federal cabinet.
By 2021, the action plan will be implemented by way of a binding insect protection law, under which the government plans to spend an additional €100 million annually for the conservation of insect populations. Also, €50 million will be invested in research and conservation projects outside the agriculture sector.
At the same time, the use of animal and plant protection products will be restricted. The controversial weedkiller glyphosate can only be used in Germany until the end of 2023.
However, the use of glyphosate will already be restricted in some cases, such as in protected areas, before the harvesting begins, for hobby gardeners, and in green public spaces. A minimum distance of ten metres from water bodies also needs to be maintained in the future.
It is hoped that these restrictions will lead to a 75% reduction in pesticides, said Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
But the leader of the Green parliamentary group in the Bundestag, Anton Hofreiter, said the measures are far from sufficient. “Pesticides should no longer exist in protected areas, except where they are necessary for cultivation. In the end, this means that nothing will change at all,” he wrote.
German chemical giant Bayer criticised the government decision, saying the substance used in the weedkiller, produced by its unit Monsanto, can be used safely.
“Such a ban would ignore the overwhelming scientific assessments of competent authorities around the world that have determined for more than 40 years that glyphosate can be used safely,” Bayer told Reuters.
In 2017, the EU Council agreed on allowing the use of glyphosate for another five years in a close vote. By 15 December 2022, the ‘allowance’ period will have run out.
Since then, sixteen European member states have partially banned the weedkiller and Austria was the first to introduce a complete ban at the start of July. However, Austria’s decision could violate EU law and the facts of the case are still being clarified.
Farmers’ association calls package “toxic for farmers”
Moreover, the agriculture ministry has decided to allocate more funds from the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to environmental protection measures.
Under the CAP, European member states are entitled to transfer up to 15% of Brussels funds that flow into the direct payments of farmers for cultivated land to the so-called “second pillar”, which promotes environmental measures such as green strips.
Next year, Germany will increase this transfer from 4.5% to 6%, which corresponds to €70 million.
On Wednesday (4 September), the German Farmers’ Association (DBV) voiced clear disappointment by the government’s package.
“This package is toxic for farmers”, said DBV’s president, Joachim Rukwied. According to him, the strong restriction of pesticides will “significantly weaken” the competitiveness of German farmers, and the redistribution of agricultural subsidies would also mean “more painful cuts to farmers’ incomes”.
Grades for animal farming
With the animal welfare label presented by Klöckner, butcher shops will be able to apply a three-stage grading system that evaluates the keeping, transport and slaughter of animals. However, this proposed system will be voluntary.
According to Klöckner, this is a building block for the restructuring of livestock farming in Germany. “In 10 to 15 years, our livestock farming will look different,” she said. With an advertising campaign worth €70 million, the new label should also be communicated to the consumer.
Animal welfare organisations welcomed the step but criticised the fact that implementing the label remains voluntary.
One misses an opportunity here to “comprehensively tackle the socially desired restructuring of animal farming,” according to Silvia Bender, who leads the biodiversity department of the environmental NGO Naturschutzbund Deutschland (BUND).
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic/Gerardo Fortuna]