Farmers from across Germany have descended on Berlin to take part in a mass protest against the government’s agricultural reform package that foresees a reduction in the use of fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides.

Line after line, the area around the Brandenburg Gate in central Berlin was clogged up with tractors from all over Germany. Farmers had driven them into the capital days in advance to be more visible to the general public as their mass protest got underway on in November 2019.

The farmers are not willing to accept what those at the top want us to do without consulting us upfront. “Those at the top” are German Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner and Environment Minister Svenja Schulze.

They both presented an agricultural package in September saying that farmers would have to reduce their use of fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides with a view to curbing the dying of insects and reducing the nitrate content in the groundwater.

The German farmers want to see honest research into where the nitrate content in the groundwater really comes from,” said another farmer from Bavaria. There are other causes as well — however, we farmers are the only ones targeted by the government, and that’s unfair.

When farmers are supposed to reduce the use of fertilizers by 20% as the government wants them to, it means that the crops get 20% less nutrients every year, and that will have a corresponding impact on the overall yields and general incomes.

There was agreement among the farmers gathered in Berlin that agricultural subsidies will have to continue to flow to prevent even more farms from going bust. “If prices for our products were a lot higher, we wouldn’t need any subsidies.

But then there would also be a lot of price pressure from eastern Europe and other nations which — also because of trade agreements — are making our lives hard with their cheap exports.

Farmers protesting in Bonn (Reuters/T. Schmuelgen)

There’s a general feeling among the farmers here that the government has failed to consider their interests while trying to push through even more regulation.

German farmers have also rallied in the western German city of Bonn to protest what they see as excessive regulation. There has to be an end to the exorbitant flood of regulations.

One-third of all food worldwide ends up in the garbage, with industrialized countries contributing the most. A new food-sharing platform wants to help tackle the impact this has on our climate.

Mülldeponie in Kroatien (picture alliance/M. Strmoti)

In order to make sure the leftover products are distributed instead of discarded. The Food-sharing online platform links more than 50,000 “food savers” with businesses that want to give away food for free instead of throwing it away.

In total, that is 1.3 billion tons of food per year that goes uneaten. The FAO estimates that collectively this food waste has a CO2 footprint of 3.6 gigatons.

These figures don’t include the CO2 emissions produced when forests are cleared for animal farming or to create soybean or palm oil plantations.

Infografik Lebensmittelverschwendung durch Konsumenten EN

In other words, if food production were a country, it would be the third largest CO2 emitter in the world after the USA and China. The majority of food waste is produced by the high-income industrialized countries.

According to FAO estimates, Europeans on average throw away 95 kilograms (209 lbs) of food annually per person. In the low-income African countries south of the Sahara, it is only 6 kilograms.

Some food groups are more resource-intensive than others. Meat is by far the worst for the climate, partly because cattle and other ruminants generate large amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas that is about 25 times more harmful to the climate than CO2.

In the case of cows that amounts to several hundred liters of gas every day. As a result, according to the environmental organization Greenpeace, roughly 13 kilograms of CO2 is released per kilogram of beef, compared to only 0.75 kilograms of CO2 for a typical loaf of brown bread.

Meat that is thrown away is therefore far more problematic for the environment than most plant-based foods, all the more so because 20% of the world’s meat products end up in the bin. That’s equivalent to 75 million, mostly Brazilian cows a year.

Despite some progress and good initiatives for redistribution, too much food still ends up in landfills, releasing more climate-damaging gases into the atmosphere. Whether it’s bread or meat, it continues to contribute to climate change, as organic waste rots in landfills and releases methane gas.

Deutsche Welle / ABC Flash Point News 2019.

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