Conflict between agriculture and biodiversity
By Tobias Nowakowski
On the 12. Februrary 2019, one day before the expiry of the registration period, the petition with the slogan “Safe the bees” was already successful. They Petition needed 950000 signs, in the end there were 1,7 million and it’s the largest and successfully petition in Bavaria (federal state in Germany). (SZ (2019)) This Petition is just a new step in an old conflict between agriculture and biodiversity. Zeit Online refers to Westrich, who wrote that the conflict already started 100 years ago with the emergence of herbicides, insecticides, land consolidation, and the increasing mechanization of agriculture. (Zeit Online(2019)) And the NABU-Organization is going on step further and connected the expansion of energy crops since 2005 to the destruction of habitats and biodiversity. (Verifox (2019)) Chapter 2 shows some figures about the current acreage and explain why the petition started in Bavaria. Chapter 3 describes the relationship between the stakholders. The last chapter summarizes and dares to look into the future.
2. Backround Information
As already mentioned, the conflict has been around for some time. The current conflict with this petition is between conservationists and land owners, specifically farmers. Also included is the Government of Bavaria as legislature power of the federal state. The petition includes amendments of laws to protect the nature and biodiversity. It should add and change some laws. To sum up, the share of ecological agriculture shall be in 2025 20% and 30% in 2030. The mandatory of water edge stripes, the protection of avenues and hedges and the building of biotope associations is also included. This conflict between those parties is not limited to Bavaria, but only in Bavaria is the opportunity to influence laws by direct democracy with a petition. This happened already few times, for example in 2010 for protection of non-smokers. (Volksbegehren Artenvielfalt (2019), ÖDP München (2019))
Figure 1 shows the acreage expansion of corn from 2005 until 2016 in every federal state of Germany. The largest expansions are in Bavaria and Lower Saxony. The NABU (2016) said this expansion is one reason for reduction biodiversity.
Figure 1- Acreage expansions (NABU)
In 2015, the Federal Office of Nature conservation said that in 2015 were 2.2 million hectar used by planting energie crops. All in all it is a share of 17,5 % of agriculture acreage in whole Germany. 900 000 hectar of corn, 600 000 hectar of rape, which are used for biomass plants and biofuel. The NABU then knows that this type of monocultural cultivation, which was reinforced by the expansion of biomass plants, leads to far-reaching consequences for biodiversity. This increased demand for energy crops is a consequence of the Renewable Energy Law, which was implemented in 2004. (Verifox (2019))
3. Evaluation of the conflict
The intensity of the conflict is mainly related to different campaigns, strikes and different positions in the political debate. These positions in the debates are shaped by various interest groups.
The main stakeholders in this conflict are conservationists. This includes non-governmental organizations like NABU or Greenpeace. Some parties, for example “Die Grünen” and “ÖDP” make some campaign or petitions, like in Bavaria, against monocultural agriculture for more sustainability and biodiversity. (Die Günen (2019), ÖDP München (2019)) On the other hand, there are the farmers. They try to make some profit within the market and the legislation. If there are campaigns like these in Bavaria, they campaign against it, because they must change the production line, if the changes become reality. (Bayerischer Bauernverband (2019)) Another stakeholder is the government with the strategy of renewable Energy. They also have to pay the compensations payments for the farmers etc. And in the end, there are biomass plants owner, with their demand on energy crops. (Merkur (2019))
To sum up, if the demands of nature conservation associations are not implemented, protests will continue. Precisely because environmental awareness and the awareness of climate change has increased significantly in recent years. The Federal Environment Office published a study, which said that a share of 20% of the population in Germany think that ecological problems is the main challenge in the future. (Umwelt Bundesamt (2017)) This will even make some pressure on the current government to do something against declining biodiversity and monocultural agriculture. On the other hand, if magazines and newspapers will write about dying bee’s in the next few summers. The conflict may escalate.
5. Keywords and identifiers of the conflict
Biodiversity, Energy Crops, Germany, Monocultural Agriculture
Bayerischer Bauernverband (2019): Nein zum Volksbegehren,, visited on 18.02.2019
Bundesamt für Naturschutz [BfN] (2016): Erneuerbare Energien,, visited on 18.09.2019
Die Grünen (2019): Bayerische Grüne unterstützen das Volksbegehren Artenvielfalt, https://gruene-bayern.de/bayerische-gruene-unterstuetzen-das-volksbegehren-artenvielfalt/, visited on 18.09.2019
Merkur (2019): „Rettet die Bienen“: Söder reagiert auf Volksbegehren zur Artenvielfalt,, visited on 18.09.2019
NABU (2016): Schwarzbuch zeigt schädliche Folgen des Biomasse-Anbaus,, visited on 18.02.2019
ÖDP München (2019): ÖDP startet das Volksbegehren „Rettet die Bienen, Vögel und Schmetterlinge – stoppt das Artensterben!“, https://oedp-muenchen.de/volksbegehren-artenvielfalt-es-geht-los/, visited on 18.02.2019
Süddeutsche Zeitung [SZ] (2019): 18,4 Prozent der Bayern stimmen für Volksbegehren Artenvielfalt,, visited on 18.02.2019
Umwelt Bundesamt (2017): Umweltbewusstsein und Umweltverhalten,, visited on 18.02.2019
Verifox (2019): Monokulturen und Artensterben - Nachteile von Biogasanlagen, https://www.verivox.de/nachrichten/monokulturen-und-artensterben-nachteile-von-biogasanlagen-18009/, visited on 18.02.2019
Volksbegehren Artenvielfalt (2019): Antrag auf Zulassung des Volksbegehrens Artenvielfalt & Naturschönheit in Bayern „Rettet die Bienen!“,, visited on 18.02.2019
Zeit Online (2019): Rettet alle Bienen,, visited on 18.02.2109