BSE prompts rethink for Germany

7 January 2001

BSE prompts rethink for Germany

by John Burns in Cirencester

THE shock of finding BSE in Germany has prompted a fundamental re-think of its farming systems, says the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation.

As a result, organic production could play a leading role in Germanys farming future, according to Professor Dr Hartmut Vogtmann, the agencys president.

Speaking at the Soil Association organic conference in Cirencester, Prof Vogtmann said: “We were told BSE could never happen in Germany, but it has.”

The shock that the disease had been found had prompted many Germans to say: “We need a new model for agriculture,” Prof Vogtmann added.

Germanys agricultural policy since World War Two had consistently been to maintain farm incomes and food production by increasing yields.

Over the past 50 years, years had increased by 50% energy use had increased four-fold, nitrogen use five-fold and pesticide use 10-fold.

On-farm employment decreased by 70% and agrobiodiversity reduced by 80%.

The result was food surpluses, costly market regulation, growing international trade conflicts, and serious environmental problems as well as BSE.

Viable farm structures and countryside maintenance had been neglected, said Prof Vogtmann. Organic farming should be the new model for German farming.

An alliance of German consumers, conservationists, some politicians and some farming unions, was demanding change, conference delegates were told.

It wanted 10% of German farming to be organic by 2005, rising to 20% by 2010, and to see 20% of EU farm funding devoted to organic farming.

Other demands included higher premiums for sustainable land use, countryside maintenance, employment, increased use of the polluter pays principle in farming.

There should be more support for local processing and marketing, and no use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture, said the alliance.

Prof Vogtmann said recently published papers outlining Germanys proposals for agriculture included an immediate 130million for organic farming.

There were opportunities for the UK and German governments and consumer groups to collaborate to take “the new organic model” forward in Europe.

The UK had taken the lead on nature conservation but its consumer groups were not as far ahead on organic farming as Germanys, he concluded.

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