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Referendum "Save the Bees": experts from the University of Hohenheim criticize the demands

02.10.2019 08:10

Referendum "Save the Bees": experts from the University of Hohenheim criticize the demands

"Very good but poorly done": Scientists complain about misplaced priorities, maximum requirements and lack of dialogue.

Bayern did it: The "Save the Bees" referendum was the most successful in the history of the country and should now be a 1: 1 law. Since last week, also in Baden-Wuerttemberg, a referendum of the same name. But the demands to stop the killing of insects go far beyond the Bavarian model. Accordingly, farmers' resistance is greater. Experts from the University of Hohenheim are also critical of the requirements. In press statements, prof. Dr. Ing. Johannes Steidle, Organic Animal, Dr. Sabine Zikeli, Director of the Center for Organic Farming, Prof. Dr. Honey. Ralf Vögele, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Director of the Institute of Phytomedocine and Dr. Med. Peter Rosenkranz, head of the State Institute for Bee Research.

The referendum "Conservation: Save the Bees" is an initiative of "ProBiene – Free Institute for Organic Beekeeping" and is supported by numerous associations such as BUND BW, NABU BW, Demeter BW or Naturland BW.

Requirements at a glance:

– The share of organic farming should increase to 50% by 2035
– In natural reserves pesticides should be banned
– Areas where pesticides will be used will be halved by 2025
– Fruit meadows should be protected

press releases

Prof. Johannes Steidle, Department of Animal Ecology, University of Hohenheim

"My referendum rating summed it up: very well-meaning, but poorly executed.

The topic of killing insects is indeed serious and one should hope that the policy will act quickly. I am grateful that the referendum draws attention to this important issue. However, I will not sign the text as it is.

The main criticism in my opinion: The requirements are too narrow for pesticides. They are certainly a factor in the extinction of species. But explaining the core of the problem does not yield data.

The really crucial factor in the referendum is practically neglected: in order for insects to survive, they need habitats: a plant feed, plants to lay their eggs, gaps in the soil, flowering wild plants, hedges …

Monocultures with crops are about as attractive to insects as to the friction surface. Whether or not you apply pesticides to this "vicious surface" doesn't really matter anymore.

The first step would therefore be to take action against the structural poverty of our landscape: for example, the mandatory green bar at the edge of large fields. Another important starting point is a different approach to grassland, which accounts for at least 50% of agricultural land in Germany. It should be cut much less frequently.

My second point of criticism is the requested ban on all plant protection products and biocides in protected areas. As far as I understand the relevant legal texts, this includes biological pest control and other environmentally friendly methods without which organic farming would not be possible.

Many winemakers, for example, have set themselves up to fight Sauerwurm and hay on biological mess tactics. They bring the scents of females into the vineyard so that the males do not find the right females. A successful and proven strategy to help reduce the use of chemical toxins. This method would also be banned.

In retrospect, getting a special permit for every single biological agent on the road, I find bureaucracy inaccessible.

My impression is: the Bavarian referendum was so successful, because intensive dialogue with all interested groups was conducted in advance. In Baden-Württemberg, however, the dispute was clearly overlooked. "

Dr. Sabine Zikeli, Director of the Center for Organic Farming, University of Hohenheim

"The referendum seeks to expand organic farming enormously. However, I am convinced that the requirements, if implemented individually, would not bring good to the industry. On the contrary.

The referendum text suggests that pesticides would not be used in organic farming. This is largely related to organic farming: there are alternative pest control strategies: eg mechanical weed control or crop pruning to prevent fungal diseases and pests. In fruit and viticulture, neither fungi nor insects can be fought. When potatoes are grown, measures must be taken against the Colorado beetle.

Although not chemical-synthetic pesticides are used, but copper, herbal preparations or biological agents such as. Viruses that affect certain insects. However, all this would not be allowed under the demands of the referendum.

However, every gardener knows that you can grow apples in our climate, but that they do not always look good without biological pest control, but instead show scabs or are influenced by moth caterpillars. Therefore, we would have to stop growing apple trees in protected landscapes or planting apple trees, which means growing under foil and netting. However, I suspect that the referendum initiators did not keep in mind the large foil plantations on Lake Constance.

The plan to increase organic farming to 25% by 2025 and to 50% by 2030 also seems unrealistic. Finally, there must be a product market. The Organic Age market is growing, but not as fast. Competition among organic farmers would increase significantly, making organic farming less attractive.

Last but not least, organic farming relies on farmers to follow that path out of conviction. If one person were to impose themselves to a certain extent, it would be assumed that there were significantly more blacks. The guidelines should probably be considered more carefully and the credibility of the industry could be compromised.

Numerous scientific studies have shown that organic farming contributes more to biodiversity than conventional farming. Farmers are aware of this, and the conservation of biodiversity is very important to them.

An alliance like Demeter BW or Naturland BW supports the referendum. However, I suspect that, first of all, the voices were heard by members who farm, and the consequences for the special crops have not been fully realized. The Bioland BW Association has therefore voted against the referendum. "

Prof. Ralf Vögele, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture and Director of the Institute of Phytomedicine, University of Hohenheim

"The basic idea of ​​people's demands is worthy of support. But unfortunately, it shoots far beyond the target and therefore, in my opinion, in its current form is not acceptable.

I am convinced that we can significantly reduce the use of chemical-synthetic pesticides. To achieve this, we need to develop smart strategies and there are already very promising approaches. Deonitating decoration, on the other hand, leads us nowhere.

It should be remembered that if we left the pesticides overnight, we would no longer be able to feed the world's population. For many German companies, this would mean the end. We would need potatoes or apples, for example, to import almost entirely from abroad. Viticulture would not be possible in Germany either.

At this point, it should be remembered that reducing usable pesticides can lead to major resistance issues. Decreasing the application rate can very quickly lead to a fall below the required threshold, which makes the use of funds inefficient. On the other hand, reducing the spectrum of the causative agent, if applicable, due to the use of only one active ingredient, can quickly lead to the development of pathogen resistance – similar to the one currently observed in the rise of antibiotic resistance in hospital germs.

Reasonable and promising management of pesticide use would be far more effective here.

For example, digitization offers great opportunities. New technologies are helping farmers to use pesticides more and more purposefully and thus reducing their quantity.

I also think that there is a very promising approach that seeks to combine the benefits of conventional and organic agriculture and minimize their disadvantages. The goal is to grow systems that do not contain chemical pesticides but not on mineral fertilizers. At the University of Hohenheim, we are coordinating the joint project "NOcsPS" of € 5.3 million.

Many today obviously have a romantically transformed view of agriculture, but have no idea about the reality of farms. They are to blame for the referendum.

The desire to avoid pesticides is also in stark contrast to actual consumer behavior. As long as there is only optically impeccable fruit and vegetables in the supermarket, reducing pesticides will be difficult. "

Dr. Peter Rosenkranz, Head of the State Institute of Beekeeping, University of Hohenheim

"Although insect beekeepers are naturally very close to their hearts, most consider the maximum referendum requirements to be critical. Therefore, neither Württemberg nor the Baden Beekeepers Association, which together represent around 25,000 beekeepers, currently support the referendum.

Numerous fruit and wine growers, especially in the natural reserves in the Lake Constance region, have now made it clear that they are considered endangered by the referendum in its existence. Indirectly, it would affect beekeeping.

Although there are always conflicts between farmers and beekeepers, both sides are strongly dependent on each other. Because fruit and vegetable growers need bees as pollinators and vice versa, special beekeeping crops are important sources of pollen and nectar.

Most beekeepers are well aware of the problems and needs of farmers, for example, they know that crop protection cannot be completely taken away in the area of ​​special crops. At the same time, beekeepers naturally have a strong interest in maintaining healthy bee communities, and honey is not contaminated with pesticides.

Therefore, intensive efforts at local level have been made in beekeeping committees over the years to reduce pesticide use and make the bee friendly area. These fundamentally controversial arguments and debates have also led to an improvement in the welfare of bees with many conventional farmers who are unfortunately largely ignored in this referendum.

Support for a petitioners' association petition will disrupt that cooperation and tear down old trenches, especially in fruit and wine growing areas. "

Interview: Leonhardmair

Contact the media

Prof. Johannes Steidle, University of Hohenheim, Department of Animal Ecology
T 0711 459 23667, E

Dr. Sabine Zikeli, University of Hohenheim, Center for Organic Farming
T +49 711 459 23248, E

Prof. Ralf Vögele, University of Hohenheim, Chair of Phytopathology
T 0711 459 22387, E

Dr. Peter Rosenkranz, University of Hohenheim, Landesanstalt für Bee Science
T +49 711-459-22659, E

Until the press release from the University of Hohenheim

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