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Daily News Blog

14
Feb

Bavarians Gather Enough Petition Signatures to Advance Legislation to Save the Bees

(Beyond Pesticides, February 14, 2019) Over the course of the last two weeks in Bavaria – a southern state of Germany – locals rallied in an effort to save the bees. Braving the cold in eye-catching bee outfits, a broad coalition of activists collected over a million signatures (the necessary 10% of the state’s eligible voters) to move a petition into legislature. The petition pushes forward changes in farming practices to support pollinators; while bees are the charismatic champion of the campaign, changes will support biodiversity in general.

Now that signatures are gathered, the state parliament has three months to handle citizens’ requests. Then, parliament can either accept the proposal as is or put it to a statewide referendum. In a statewide referendum, there will be a “yes” or “no” vote by a simple majority, with government bound by the result.

A central motion within the petition is to increase percentage of organic farmland from 10% to 30% by 2030. This number is based on the global movement to conserve 30% of the world by 2030 in order to avoid environmental catastrophe. Proponents of the petition suggest that the demand for organic products is higher than current Bavarian capabilities, and that the move would be economically beneficial for farmers.

The petition also puts responsibility on all farmers to create habitat within their agricultural lands that is suitable to wildlife. There is a focus on creating more flowering meadows by mowing later in the year and expanding areas of natural grassland. Edge areas such as hedges and trees will be required along with mandatory 5-meter-wide buffer margins on all streams and ditches. These “gewässerrandstreifen” both protect waterways from agricultural runoff and offer habitat for pollinators. Additionally, non-organic farmers will be required to reduce their use of pesticides.

Currently, Bavarian farmers are given a financial subsidy if they voluntarily decide to make environmentally-beneficial changes. If the petition makes it through legislation, environmental compliance would be compulsory. Environmentalists note that current agricultural conservation efforts are insufficient to change the tide of insect decline. Recent studies show alarming drops in insect populations – more than 75% of flying insects in Germany have been wiped out since 1989. As 44% of the total area of Bavaria is used for agriculture, changes in practices would likely have a major impact.

There is significant push back from the conservative ruling body of parliament and major farming groups. Farmers in the Bayerischer Bauern Verband (Bavarian Farmers’ Association) fear reduced productivity or even dispossession of their land. Critics say that the measures punish farmers and with undue responsibility and restrictions. Many farmers rely on subsidies, and about half already participate in environmental programs.

In a time of worldwide crisis for insects, local bee-enthusiasts see the petition as a way to lead necessary change. “If we wait until the whole world joins in,” Karin Staffler, a beekeeper in Ausberg, wrote, “we’ll be waiting until there’s nothing left to save.”

Beyond Pesticides supports local activists to make change within their communities and believes, like some Bavarians, that organic is a solution to environmental issues. Our tools for change serves as a resource to help individuals organize at the local, state, and national level.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Sources: National Geographic, The Local, MunichNOW Media, The Munich Eye

 

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