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Agriculture

Protesters in Berlin call for an end to factory farming

Demonstrators gathered in Berlin Saturday to protest against genectic engineering, factory farming and export dumping. They called on the German agriculture industry to embrace a more sustainable type of farming.

Banners saying GM food, no thanks! and Stop agricultural factories

Thousands marched for change in the agriculture industry

Several thousand people in Berlin on Saturday demonstrated for change in the agriculture industry, calling for non-toxic and environmentally friendly arable and animal farming, less industrial agriculture and more consumer protection.

"The current dioxin scandal has suddenly highlighted the backlog of reforms in agricultural policy," Hubert Weiger, chairman of BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany) said in his speech at the rally.

In the largest demonstration of its kind, organizers said 22,000 people came from all over Germany on 60 buses, trains and 50 tractors. Police estimated the turnout to be 15,000 participants. The demonstration was timed to coincide with International Green Week, an annual agricultural exhibition in Berlin.

The protest ran under the motto "We've had enough - no to genetic engineering, factory farming and export dumping." Dumping is the practice of exporting goods at a price which is either below the price it charges in its home market or is below its production costs.

A speech by Nnimmo Bassey, winner of the alternative Nobel Prize and chairman of Friends of the Earth International, was met with loud applause. He said that a worldwide protest against genetic technology, factory farms and dumping exports was imperative for worldwide food security.

Chickens in a factory farm

Protesters called for an end to industrialized farms

"European agricultural policy has had a devastating impact on developing countries," he said.

German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner said it was vital to ensure that global food prices did not rise too rapidly pointing out that rising costs had helped provoke riots in Algeria and Tunisia.

"With more and more people in the world it becomes particularly difficult for developing and emerging nations to ensure that they can provide for their basic needs," Aigner told journalists at the event.

Aigner said the food situation with regard to the rate of growth of world population was "alarming."

"Worldwide production must be increase by about 70 percent so that food supplies can be assured," she said.

End to subsidies for factory farms

Weiger said he wanted to see the government supporting a more sustainable type of farming to avoid another food scare.

"Society demands the enforcement of appropriate animal husbandry, a move away from madness of genetic engineering and the redirection of subsidies away from the agricultural industry towards ecological farming," Weiger said.

Maria Heubuch, national chair of the Association of Small Farmers (AbL), said she wanted factory farms to be banned and to stop receiving tax subsidies.

"Factory farming and genetic engineering is a dangerous dead end for farmers and an increased risk for consumers," she said. Animal-friendly husbandry and feeding with local grain and protein feed without genetic modification - this is our future!"

protestor in pig costume

Demonstrators said the dioxin scandal highlighted a need for reforms

Government will tighten controls: Merkel

The coalition of 120 farmers, environmental associations and citizens' groups also called on people to demonstrate against the dioxin scandal.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said in her weekly video message on Saturday that the government would tighten controls in the animal feed industry as a reaction to the dioxin scandal in which contaminated animal feed fats entered the food chain.

On Friday, it was announced that the dioxin in the animal feed had originated, among other sources, from cooking oil for French fries and other used cooking fats. Accordingly, these fats were refined by the Vital company and were delivered to the fat feed manufacturer Harles & Jentzsch via the biodiesel producer Petrotec

Author: Natalia Dannenberg (Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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