Tag Archives: Germany

USDA Reveals Germany GMO-Free Labeling Program Erodes Demand for US GMO Soybeans

Sustainable Pulse - July 18, 2019

Germany’s voluntary GMO-free labeling program is gaining momentum, generating $11 billion in sales in the country in 2018, according to a report by the US Dept of Agriculture’s (USDA) Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) service.

According to the report, German consumers’ increasing awareness of and preference for Ohne Gentechnik (“without genetic engineering”) labelled foods “is also driving demand in the market for GMO-free animal feed, leading to marketing opportunities for growers and producers of non-GMO feed ingredients and additives, while eroding demand for US exports of genetically engineered soy”.

The USDA’s report is a revealing admission from a body that has long been dedicated to promoting the US’s GM crop exports.

GMO labelling in the EU

Since 2004, the EU has required on-label disclosure for foods and animal feed products that contain GM ingredients. However, there is no mandatory EU labelling requirement for non-GMO food products or for foods derived from animals fed GMO feed.

In 2008, Germany enacted its own legislation establishing a voluntary GMO-free labelling program. The law set standards for the voluntary labelling of non-GMO plant-based foods and for products derived from livestock fed with non-GMO feed. In 2010, the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture delegated authority to administer the voluntary GMO-free labelling standard to the Verband Lebensmittel ohne Gentechnik (Association for Food without Genetic Engineering), commonly known by its German acronym, VLOG.

VLOG is a non-profit company with the exclusive authority to license food manufacturers’ and retailers’ use of the standard Ohne Gentechnik (GMO-free) label and animal feed producers’ use of the VLOG Geprüft (VLOG Approved) label. VLOG is a membership-based organization open to any consumer or business; however, most members are farmers, processors, retailers, marketers, food producers, and trade associations.

A company does not have to obtain VLOG membership to secure a license to use the Ohne Gentechnik label on its products, but many licensees are also VLOG members. VLOG has over 700 members and licensees that represent nearly every food and agribusiness product sector, from dairy, eggs, and vegetables to cereals, meats, and beverages.

Continuing market growth

Sales of GMO-free foods in Germany, labeled as Ohne Gentechnik (without genetic engineering), are steadily rising, the USDA report says. In 2018, 10 years after Germany passed legislation establishing the Ohne Gentechnik standard, German consumers spent $11 billion on foods bearing the Ohne Gentechnik label — a 41 percent increase from 2017. Milk and dairy products comprised the bulk of those sales (66 percent), with poultry and eggs making up 18 percent and 12 percent of Ohne Gentechnik sales, respectively.

Germany’s market for Ohne Gentechnik products is now almost as large as the country’s organic food market, which was valued at more than $12 billion in 2018. VLOG projects that Ohne Gentechnik food sales will continue to grow in 2019, increasing by at least 11 percent. In response to this growth in demand, food retailers continue to expand the amount of shelf space devoted to Ohne Gentechnik products.

The major German grocers — Edeka, Rewe, Schwarz Group (Lidl), and Aldi — have all adopted the Ohne Gentechnik label on many of their own brand products, particularly meat, dairy, eggs, and poultry. In early 2019, spurred by the growing popularity of the Ohne Gentechnik label, the Schwarz Group-owned grocery chain Kaufland began marketing a line of Ohne Gentechnik pork products. Kaufland, which operates around 600 stores in Germany, currently offers at least 700 Ohne Gentechnik products and plans to expand those GMO-free offerings in the future.

The growing popularity of Ohne Gentechnik products reflects German consumers’ food perceptions and preferences. In a study commissioned by Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, 93 percent of respondents said they wanted to know when their food came from animals fed genetically modified feed. Up to 63 percent of German consumers check food labels for GMO-free claims, which they cite as an important influence on their purchasing decisions. Of German consumers who purchase organic food, 58 percent claim to purchase organic products because they are GMO-free.


Bayer Shareholders Vote Against Board over Monsanto Merger

Sustainable Food - Apr 27 2019

Bayer chief executive Werner Baumann was dealt a blow Friday at the German chemical giant’s annual general meeting, amid tensions over last year’s decision to buy US seeds and pesticides maker Monsanto, as disgruntled shareholders voted against management.
Source: AFP

At the AGM in Bonn, 55.5 percent voted against the management board, led by embattled CEO Werner Baumann, with just 44.5 percent of shareholders in favour – a huge drop down from 97 percent support last year.

The result is a slap in the face for Baumann and his management team. Although the vote carries no direct consequences, it is a clear statement by disgruntled shareholders.

Around 500 protesters gathered outside the Bonn conference centre with placards mocking Bayer’s corporate motto “science for a better life” or calling to “stop glyphosate”, the Monsanto-made herbicide at the centre of the group’s woes.

Inside, investors were fuming.

“Bayer has choked on Monsanto,” said Ingo Speich of Deka bank. “The company risks being taken over and dismantled.”

Mark Tuemmler of investors’ federation DSW said 2018 was “a nightmare for shareholders”.

– ‘A scandal’ –

Bayer’s share price fell last year by around 40 percent following its $63 billion takeover of Monsanto in June — the biggest in German history.

At 57 billion euros, its market capitalisation is little higher than the price it paid to acquire Monsanto in the first place.

“A scandal,” Tuemmler said.

Opening the meeting, Baumann acknowledged that some 13,400 US lawsuits relating to glyphosate and initial unfavourable judgements against Bayer “are placing a heavy burden on our company and worrying many people”.

Last year’s share price plunge was driven by the first of two jury rulings so far that have awarded plaintiffs — cancer patients who had been exposed to glyphosate over long periods — $80 million each.

Baumann complained that such decisions had been based on a 2015 finding by World Health Organization arm IARC that glyphosate “probably” causes cancer.

“We remain convinced of the safety of glyphosate,” the CEO said, recalling regulators worldwide found no new evidence that the pesticide causes cancer in reviews prompted by the IARC judgement.

In the two cases already heard, “we remain optimistic that the next higher courts will reach different verdicts,” the CEO added, calling for “decisions based on scientific analysis — and not on emotions”.

The business case for the merger remained as strong as ever, he assured investors, with the merged companies now operating “leading businesses in chemical and biological crop protection, in conventional and biotech seed, and also in digital farming”.

And he reiterated the group’s targets — including its pharmaceutical and over-the-counter medicines units — to increase sales four percent, to 46 billion euros ($51 billion) in 2019, with an operating profit before special items of 12.2 billion euros.

Current market reactions were “exaggerated” and did not reflect Bayer’s “true value”, he said.


Bavaria to Pass ‘Save the Bees’ Petition into Law in Landmark Move

Sustainable Pulse - Apr 5, 2019

Bavaria has announced that it will pass into law a popular “save the bees” petition that promises drastic changes in farming practices – without putting it to a referendum first.

The petition launched in February to seek better protection of plant and animal species had become the most successful in the southern German region’s history, garnering 1.75m signatures.

The proposal set a target for 20% of agricultural land to meet organic farming standards by 2025, before reaching 30% by 2030.

Ten per cent of green spaces in Bavaria would have to be turned into flowering meadows, and rivers and streams better protected from pesticides and fertilizers.

Rather than putting the petition to a referendum, Bavaria’s state premier, Markus Söder, announced it would simply be written into law, passing through parliament.

“We are taking the text of the referendum word for word,” said Söder, leader of the conservative CSU party which governs the state in a coalition majority.

The farming industry, which had sometimes felt marginalized in the environmental debate, would have to be given support to carry out the transformation, he added.

Scientists in Germany and worldwide have sounded the alarm about massive insect losses in terms of species diversity and total biomass, with dire consequences for the animals that feed on them and for plants that require them for pollination.

The recent bug decline is seen by experts as part of a gathering “mass extinction” of species, only the sixth in the last half-billion years.

“Unless we change our way of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” concluded a peer-reviewed study by Francisco Sánchez-Bayo of the University of Sydney and Kris Wyckhuys of the University of Queensland in Australia.

A 2016 study found that about 1.4bn jobs and three-quarters of all crops depend on pollinators, mainly bees, which provide free plant fertilization services worth billions of dollars.


35,000 Hit Streets of Berlin to Demand Agricultural Revolution

Common Dreams - by  - Jan 20, 2019

“This protest shows that the desire for a different agricultural policy is now undeniable.”

Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they’re “fed up” with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals, and rural farmers.

Many held placards reading “Eating is political” at the action in Berlin, which coincided with the so-called “Green Week” agricultural fair.

The protest also featured a procession of 170 farmers driving tractors to the rally at the Brandenburg Gate.

“This protest,” said Green party co-leader Robert Habeck, “shows that the desire for a different agricultural policy is now undeniable.”

As DW reports

Protesters called out by some 100 organizations asserted that alleviation of climate change and species depletion required a reorganization of EU farming policy, including subsidies, currently amounting to €60 billion ($68 billion) annually, including €6.3 billion allocated in Germany.

That flowed mainly to larger companies focused on boosting yields, they said, but instead the funds should be distributed better to avert further farmyard closures and rural village die-offs.

“With over €6 billion that Germany distributes every year as EU farming monies, environmental and animal-appropriate transformation of agriculture must be promoted,” said protest spokesperson Saskia Richartz.

Slow Food Europe captured some of the scenes on social media, and stated in a Twitter thread: “We believe that instead of propping up agro-industries, politicians should support the determination of small-scale farmers to keep climate-friendly farms, which are the future of agriculture.”



How France and Germany Are Ousting Glyphosate In A Search For Healthy Soils and Pesticide-Free Crops

Independent Science NEWS - by Ramon Seidler - DEC 6, 2018

The Macron Government of France is offering its farmers a way out of glyphosate dependency within the next 3 years.

Millions have been following European discussions on the possible ban (or a new licensing period) for glyphosate-based herbicides; discussions which stemmed from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declaring glyphosate a probable human carcinogen in March, 2015.

European countries finally voted, in November, 2017 to allow glyphosate to be used another 5 years on farms. Although not the time period desired by many, this was less than the time wanted by industry, some countries, and some European agencies.

Germany, after initially abstaining, in a surprise, politically-motivated, change-of-heart, voted to back the European Commission’s proposal to extend the use of the weed-killer for 5 years. The surprise came when then Agricultural Minister Christian Schmidt took it upon himself to cast Germany’s deciding yes vote supporting 5 more years of glyphosate. Neither Chancellor Merkel nor Environmental Minister Barbara Hendricks had been notified of his intent. After the vote, French President Macron said he would take all necessary measures to ban the product, as soon as an alternative was available, and at the latest within three years.

The French and Germany solution to getting rid of Glyphosate. Read on…