Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The German government is pushing back against the European Commission’s proposal to use land reserved for biodiversity for farming.
The EC proposed earlier this year to allow farmers to temporarily use such land for growing grains over concerns that the war in Ukraine will affect production and availability of food, according to Reuters reporting on Friday.
Environmental activists pushed back, expressing concerns that the move would allow farming lobbyists to push for lower environmental standards in the bloc.
The German government pushed back as well, stressing that land set aside for biodiversity may be used for fodder only because this is not as detrimental to flora and fauna as farming.
Silvia Bender, State Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, expressed belief that “the ecological damage of opening up these areas does not outweigh the economic benefit and the harvest.”
According to an EU spokesperson, the German government informed the EC that it would not use the new exemption.
The decision reflects the influence of the Greens on the German government, with the party’s Minister of Food and Agriculture Cem Özdemir criticising low prices of meat and calling for a focus on organic farming.
Bender observed that Germany would not make a global impact by temporarily using land reserved for biodiversity for farming purposes.
EC could extend exemption
Janusz Wojciechowski, EU Commissioner for Agriculture, noted that the EC could extend the rule to next year, depending on developments.
Activist Julia Bar-Tal from AbL environmental association expressed belief that the food crisis should not trump the green push, stressing the importance of protecting biodiversity and the environment.
Her colleague Johann Rathke of the World Wildlife Fund pointed out that “the terrible Ukraine war with its serious consequences for global food markets was a very good opportunity for some agricultural lobbyists to take advantage of this situation.”
Other than the biodiversity land exemption, the EC is sticking to its environmental push in agriculture and is preparing to propose tighter control of pesticide use and introduce legally binding environmental targets in June.German farmers have focused more production towards grains, according to official data, with the area of land under spring wheat to increase 73.5% compared to last year, followed by barley with 20.3%.