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We’ve had enough: powerful signal in favour of organic agriculture

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Greenpeace with a strong statement against factory farming
Greenpeace with a strong statement against factory farming. Photo Karin Heinze

The big demo against the agriculture industry that took place during the International Green Week in Berlin has become a regular event. For the sixth time, over 100 organisations from agriculture, beekeeping, nature conservation, animal welfare, consumer protection, development aid and the artisan food segment called for a demonstration. Around 23,000 people responded and, on Saturday 16 January 2016 under the motto “Farms instead of industrial agriculture – no future without farmers“, they demanded an organic turnaround in agriculture. Other issues were food security and the free trade agreements TTIP and CETA. The 130 tractors - 40 more than last year - were an impressive sight. Our video will give you a good impression of the demo.

Georg Janßen from the AbL, a group supporting traditional agriculture
Georg Janßen from the AbL, a group supporting traditional agriculture. Photo Karin Heinze

Georg Janßen from the Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (AbL) – a group supporting traditional agriculture - who every year registers the demo and helps with its organisation, thanked everyone taking part for their solidarity with farmers and consumers. He listed what has been achieved or prevented from happening thanks to people promoting or opposing particular issues. “What we’ve achieved: there’s no genetic engineering on our farms - instead we’ve got indigenous plants. Serious discussion is tasking place on the availability of land for farmers wanting to convert to organic. A number of animal factories have not been built.” The latest overwhelming success - a petition containing 103,000 signatures opposing factory farming in Brandenburg – is a powerful signal.

Protesters for animal welfare
Protesters for animal welfare. Photo Karin Heinze

People are greatly concerned by animal welfare

“The welfare of animals kept in stalls and the protection of the environment round stalls is of great concern for an incredible number of people,” says Thomas Schröder, President of the Deutsche Tierschutzbund (Germany’s society for the protection of animals), on the periphery of the demo. The association, that is also a founding member of the “Wir haben es satt” (We´ve had enough) movement, mobilised about 1000 members. Changing values in society regarding the issue of animal welfare is very noticeable and they must now be reflected in law. In Schröder’s view, the animal welfare initiative of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture is welcome, but it’s still too little. He said that “Wir haben es satt“ and the demo opposing TTIP with 250,000 participants in the autumn of 2015 had the same goals, so we can describe them both as one big movement that is now located in the centre of society. “I’m sure that animal welfare, protection of the environment and nature conservation will continue to be a major concern in Germany.“

The gathering of protesters at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin
The gathering of protesters at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. Photo Karin Heinze

Secretary of State: Im by your side

For the first time, there was an official welcome by the Berlin Senate. Sabine Toepfer-Kataw (CDU), Berlin Secretary of State for Justice and Consumer Protection gave a committed speech: she thanked the farmers and consumers for going onto the streets to demonstrate for a different kind of agriculture. She said politicians were beginning to react, which could also be seen in the invitation extended by the federal Minister of Agriculture to the organisers of the demo. The movement already had many consumers on its side, and the demo was making more of them aware of the issues. Toepfer-Kataw argued for making it even clearer to consumers that quality comes at a cost: “With every decision at the checkout we’re also making a decision about the living conditions of everyone else in the world – that’s the change in thinking we’d like to achieve.“ She said you don’t do it with banning things but by rational discussion and logical arguments. She had learned that there are alternatives. “You’ve convinced me, I’m by your side,” she declared.

Group of vegan food fans among the demo
Group of vegan food fans among the demo

Conventional farmers are fighting for survival

In conventional agriculture the framework conditions could hardly be worse. Farmers are struggling with catastrophic producer prices for milk and pork, explained Ottmar Ilchmann, a dairy farmer from Ostfriesland. “This powerful support and the appreciation of society encourage us to put a lot of energy into fighting for the survival of our farms.“ Josef Jacobi from the Upländer Bauernmolkerei was also very critical of overproduction and prices well below production costs and he denounced those responsible for agricultural policy in Berlin and Brussels. He too wants to see regional agriculture that creates a future for farms and a change of direction away from the current export policy.

"Climate“ organic farmer Ulf Allhoff-Cramer drew attention to the worries farmers have about climate change: “We’re really worried about what’s happening to the climate.” Prior to the climate summit in Paris he worked together with AbL and organic associations to produce a climate appeal that was handed over to Barbara Hendricks from the Federal Ministry for the Environment. He wants the decisions taken in Paris to be implemented without delay. “For us farmers it’s an existential issue.” 

Protesters in front of the Parliament
Protesters in front of the Parliament

“Hopp, hopp, hopp, factory farming stop” and “Small-scale agriculture makes animals and people happy,” were two of the many slogans chanted by the crowd. Sarah Wiener has for a long time advocated a change in the way we feed ourselves and she expressed her demand at the demo too: “We want the change to take place with fairness and enjoyment! We’ll only get good, delicious food if we treat our environment, plants and animals with great care. If we understand that we have to work with nature and not against it we’ll regain appreciation of what feeds us. Farmers, soils and animals will benefit.”

Bioland President Jan Plagge (interview in the video) already had a number of political discussions at the Green Week behind him. The demo is for him the place where farmers and consumers demonstrate together for a different kind of agriculture, i.e. “diverse, regional, traditional, organic agriculture.” One of the major requests directed at politicians at the beginning of the year was boosting regional value and creating once again genuine future prospects.

He said that the mantra in favour of exporting had been disproved by experts and did not benefit farmers, and the direction of the Common Agriculture Policy in the EU (CAP) needed to be changed too. He also called for support to be given urgently to those who promoted biodiversity and the protection of drinking water (direct support of activities benefiting the environment, 2nd pillar). Plagge added that, regarding the EU Organic Regulation, they had the feeling that the people responsible for it were listening. Both the Dutch Minister of Agriculture Martijn van Dam (EU council presidency) and the Federal Minister for Agriculture Christian Schmidt had stated that they would support a regulation as called for by organic agriculture.

 

"Round-up yourself" - poster against Monsanto
"Round-up yourself" - poster against Monsanto. Photo Karin Heinze

Statements on more themes

On the planned free trade agreements TTIP and CETA/ Hubert Weiger, chairman of the Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND):

“Small-scale farms and consumers are the losers with the free trade agreements TTIP and CETA. Via TTIP and CETA, agro-industry intends to lower consumer protection standards. Hormone meat and GM food without labeling could then land on our supermarket shelves. The genetic engineering chapter in CETA shows that the EU Commission is prepared to make detrimental compromises regarding consumer protection. Instead of weakening it, the German Federal Government must finally ensure that consumer protection is strengthened.”

On the prospects of the global south regarding milk / Kerstin Lanje, an expert in agriculture at Misereor

“In Burkina Faso, milk exported from Europe now undercuts the local milk price by more than 60 %. This policy is causing poverty and hunger. For this reason, we must immediately stop exporting at dumping prices to countries in the global south, where it destroys the lives of local farmers. Together with the farmers, we demand political steps to end overproduction and the emphasis in Europe on exporting meat and milk!”

 

Food is not a Weapon Poster of a Syrian group
Food is not a Weapon Poster of a Syrian group. Photo Karin Heinze

On organic agriculture/ Christina Henatsch, Demeter farmer on Gut Wulfsdorf

“A ‘carry on as usual’ approach is destroying our livelihood. We have to change direction and make our agriculture fit for the future. Millions of organic farmers everywhere in the world are today showing us how to produce healthy food and, at the same time, how to protect the climate and drinking water, to maintain soil fertility, to treat animals humanely and to combat hunger in rural areas.”

On food sovereignty/ Julia BarTal,15th Garden

“The 16th January was also declared the international campaign day against besieging whole towns and communities in Syria. Anyone calling for food sovereignty can’t look away when people are being starved into submission by their own regime. Hundreds of thousands of people across the whole of Syria have been subjected to this tactic for years - with the knowledge and indifference of the international community. We object to new markets being opened up in the interest of Monsanto, Bayer and co. under the pretext of humanitarian and development aid. We mustn’t allow supporting people in wars to become promoting the interests of big agricultural corporations.”

 


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