Berlin protest slams industrialized farming | News | DW | 19.01.2013
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Berlin protest slams industrialized farming

Opponents of industrialized agriculture have converged on Angela Merkel's chancellery. A lead speaker slammed Berlin's current Green Week trade fair as a facade for "million-fold" animal suffering.

At a rally in Berlin on Saturday, advocates of small-scale ecological farming carried banners declaring themselves "fed up." Meanwhile German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner hosted 80 politicians with agriculture-related portfolios at an international summit on the trade fair site.

Hubert Weiger, the head of BUND, the German branch of Friends of the Earth, told an estimated 25,000 people at the protest rally near the chancellery that the Green Week just kilometers away amounted to consumer deception.

"The pleasant appearance of the trade fair displays hides millionfold suffering of animals, an exorbitant usage of antibiotics for fattening animals, and an enormous environmental strain from mass livestock production," Weiger said.

He demanded that the German government provide incentives for dwindling family-size farms instead of "farm factories" that, he said, failed to focus on the welfare of animals, farmers and the environment.

Protesters also highlighted the impact of "price dumping" on the world's small-scale farmers and recent trends such as dramatic declines in bee populations.

Causing hunger abroad

Klaus Seitz, a spokesman for the German Protestant aid agency Bread for the World, said Europe's policies of agricultural intensification threatened many farming families in poor nations.

More farm exports from Europe meant that indigenous peoples of the southern hemisphere would face hunger more often, Seitz said.

Uschi Helmers of the northern German protest alliance Farmyards Instead of Agricultural Factories said that giant slaughter plants were hostile to animals and humankind and "fully superfluous."

Politicians should be alert when German-owned firms are found to be employing foreign workers for only 3 euros ($4) an hour, Helmers said.

Advocate for biofuels

Agriculture Secretary Peter Bleser, of Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, warned the public not to demonize the conversion of crops such as maize and sugar cane into biofuels instead of foodstuffs.

"'The day will come when we will not have any more mineral fuel oil that we can just pump out of the ground," Bleser said.

Deutsche Bank Co-Chairman Jürgen Fitschen said his institution would continue to trade in foodstuffs despite accusations that price fluctuations contribute to hunger worldwide.

A detail study had produced "no evidence that speculation is responsible for pricing trends," Fritsch said.

The Deutsche Bank board had decided to continue "in the interest of its customers" to offer investment placements based in agricultural products, including indexed certificates, Fritsch said.

The German consumer group Foodwatch recently called on the Deutsche Bank to set an example by dropping such speculation. Several other German banks have already done so.

More small-scale investments, urges FAO

The general director of the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Jose Graziano da Silva, called for greater private and aid agency investments in the farm sectors of poorer countries.

There are increasing links between "war and hunger," he said.

The FAO has calculated that farmers in 76 developing countries annually invest 127 billion euros in farming. But, that is 62 billion euros too little to adequately feed the world's expanding population.

Green Week opened on Friday and runs until January 27.

ipj/slk (dpa, dapd, epd, kna)