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MORE than 30,000 socialists and environmentalists marched through Berlin at the weekend in protest at industrialised agriculture and an EU subsidy system they say favours agribusiness over sustainable farming.
More than 40 climate and environmental organisations joined farmers’ groups and consumer and animal rights activists to rail against a Common Agricultural Policy “in service of corporations” under the slogan: “We are sick of it.”
The EU’s agricultural subsidies amounted to almost €59 billion (£52bn) last year, but demonstrators say the payments are misdirected and should be deployed to “avert further farmyard closures and rural village die-off” rather than boost corporate profits. Because farmers receive subsidies per hectare, the biggest landowners get the biggest handouts.
German socialist daily Junge Welt said the protest aimed to challenge a “romanticised image of traditional farming.”
It quoted a report jointly produced by Oxfam, the environmentalist Boll Foundation and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation that noted: “Many do not know that large parts of the food sector are divided between a few groups.”
It warned: “Profit is the reason for intensified competition, price wars, the use of pesticides such as glyphosate, the destruction of nature and ‘cheap meat’.”
Environmental campaigners condemned an EU decision at the end of 2017 to relicense glyphosate for use for another five years despite mounting evidence that it causes cancer.
Last year Monsanto was ordered to pay nearly $300 million (£233m) to a man after a US court concluded that he had developed cancer as a result of using the chemical giant’s glyphosate-containing Roundup weedkiller, while the herbicide has also been linked to a rise in gluten intolerance.
But on Wednesday Green MEPs blocked an amendment calling for it to be banned after agreeing a deal with the right-wing European People’s Party parliamentary bloc to support a list of recommendations on pesticide use that will be submitted to the European Commission for consideration.
Though German Green co-leader Robert Harbeck said the key was changing consumption — “we have to get away from the habit of cramming calories as quickly as possible” — Junge Welt warned that “‘green’ consumption and lifestyle veganism have changed little, and sometimes the meat companies simply use it to expand their product range.” It said the real fight was with agribusiness and for a redesign of the Common Agricultural Policy.
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