Over 1.7 million people have supported a
campaign to make farming more nature-friendly in the Southern German state of
18% of the eligible citizens of Bavaria
have signed a mass petition demanding bee-friendly farming – the biggest
petition in the history of the Bavarian state - although the support of only
10% of the population is needed for such a petition to be legally recognised by
the state government.
At the forefront of the campaign were
local Friends of the Earth
groups (BUND Naturschutz), alongside progressive political
parties and other local environment groups.
Unser Aktionsbild hat es in den @guardian geschafft
Jubel geht weiter https://t.co/HDXsShcoPB
— BUND Naturschutz (@bundnaturschutz) February 14, 2019
Over a period of only 2 weeks citizens
had to take their ID cards to official offices, often queuing in the rain and
snow, to register their support for the new initiative. With the 10% hurdle now
surpassed, the regional government needs to either enact the petition or
suggest an alternative law – which will then go to a referendum later this
With such record numbers of people
supporting the campaign, the Bavarian government will have to concede to major
changes to farming to support nature. The impacts of the vote will be felt in
Berlin and Brussels.
The new initiative contains 4 pages of detailed yet
pragmatic demands on how to fundamentally change farming. Farmers would, for
example, need to save hedges and trees, be prevented from spraying chemicals
within 5 metres of streams and rivers, and 30% of farming needs to be converted
to organic production by 2030.
chair of BUND Naturschutz/Friends of the Earth Bavaria said:
“The large support of the petition shows
that the people in Bavaria want more nature conservation and better conditions
for an insect-friendly agriculture. Minister President Söder must take the
vote of the citizens seriously, and ensure that nature conservation and
biodiversity has a new status in agriculture".
The EU’s Environment Commission Karmenu
Vella also appeared to welcome the vote by tweeting, “This #ValentinesDay we can look into
our hearts and bee like #Bavaria”
we can look into our hearts and bee like #Bavariahttps://t.co/LPFVCWV10S@EU_Muenchen @EUinDE @EU_Bonn @bmu @SvenjaSchulze68
— Karmenu Vella (@KarmenuVella) February 14, 2019
Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth
“The tide is turning against chemical
farming and this will be tremendous for people and nature. Growing evidence of
the devastating impact industrial agriculture is having on our bodies and
biodiversity is now undisputable. If politicians don’t act then people power
like we have seen in Bavaria, will.”
The use of pesticides and the expansion
of industrial farming are one of the main causes of the current collapse in
insect numbers. The first global scientific review published this week claimed this would lead to a
“catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems”.
"The petition has also been signed
by many farmers and this is now a big opportunity for peasant agriculture
instead of intensive agricultural production,"said
Martin Geilhufe, the director of BUND Naturschutz.