Pesticide-free zone for sustainable agriculture

++ EuroNatur 2020 award goes to Mals in South Tyrol ++ Opponents of pesticides repeatedly face legal action ++ Award ceremony with a difference this year ++

Numerous farmers in the Vinschgau Valley spray synthetic pesticides on a large scale on their fruit plantations - a danger to humans and animals.

© Hans-Joachim Grund

Away from Vinschgau’s fruit plantations where many pesticides are often used, alpine flowers are still able to survive.

© Martina Waldner

Radolfzell, Mals. Neither intimidation nor legal action could deflect the founders of the Mals campaign from their path towards an agriculture free from poisons. Previous mayor Ulrich Veith worked together with local residents in championing the cause for a pesticide-free zone around Mals. Their courage and persistence will be recognised on October 8th when Mals is awarded the 2020 EuroNatur prize on the island of Mainau.

Three weeks ago, a court case attracted considerable media attention: Arnold Schuler, a conventional fruit grower and leading politician in Vinschgau, brought a joint action together with more than 1,300 apple growers as co-plaintiffs against author Alexander Schiebel (The Miracle of Mals) and a colleague from the Umweltinstitut München (Munich Environmental Institute). The plaintiffs had taken offence at the – in their eyes – unjustified criticism of the high use of pesticides in agriculture in the South Tyrol. Since then Schuler has back-pedalled somewhat, but not all the charges have been dropped. Ulrich Veith and fellow campaigners from Mals have also faced charges in previous court cases brought by opponents of a ban on pesticides. Veith has declared his solidarity with the defendants in the current case.

“This fresh case, which is purely motivated by power politics and endangers our freedom of speech shows that there is an attempt to gag unwelcome critics of the lobby for conventional agriculture in South Tyrol so that the use of pesticides can continue unimpeded,” says Thomas Potthast, President of EuroNatur. “The municipality of Mals has never allowed itself to be intimidated by the legal steps taken by the other side and has stuck to its belief in moving towards a sustainable agriculture,” says Potthast, explaining their choice for the award of this year’s EuroNatur prize. Due to the pandemic, only a small number of invited guests will be able to attend the ceremony to be held at Castle Mainau on the island of the same name.

Background information:

  • EuroNatur award: Previous prize winners include Dr. Mario F. Broggi, Jonathan Franzen, Dr. Luc Hoffmann, Gudrun Steinacker and the „brave women of Kruščica“. It is only the second time that a commune has received this award. It is an award without prize money, recognising exceptional achievements in nature conservation which takes account of both people and nature. The 2020 EuroNatur award is to be awarded on the island of Mainau on Lake Constance on 8th October 2020 at 18.00.
  • Pesticide use in South Tyrol: Approximately ten percent of all the apples harvested in the EU are produced on around 18,000 hectares of land in the South Tyrol. The use of artificially produced pesticides is widespread in the Vinschgau region, endangering not only the health of those living locally but also posing a threat to numerous species of flora and fauna, amongst them important pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
  • Criminal court case against critics of pesticides: The minister for the South Tyrol Arnold Schuler brought a joint action together with more than 1,300 farmers against the oekom publishing house and the Munich Environmental Institute. The public prosecutor’s office then began proceedings against the defendants. The charge was libel damaging the reputation of agriculture in the South Tyrol.

Further information: Christian Stielow, mail: christian.stielow(at); +49 (0)7732-927215

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