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Pesticides trial opens

Nov 13, 2020 / alpMedia
No criticism of pesticides wanted: a South Tyrolean provincial council, along with over 1300 farmers, has accused pesticide critics of libel.
Image caption:
Caption: Trial opens in Bolzano/I: for the Munich Environmental Institute the petitions represent an attack on freedom of opinion. (c) Jörg Farys, Umweltinstitut

In a provocative campaign in 2017, the Munich Environmental Institute denounced the massive use of pesticides in South Tyrolean apple orchards. The municipality of Mals attracted international attention when it decided, with the help of a citizens' referendum, to completely ban the use of toxic sprays. The author Alexander Schiebel addressed this event in his book “Das Wunder von Mals”. In it he sharply criticises the fruit-growing industry and its use of poisonous spraying. Now Arnold Schuler, Provincial Councillor for Agriculture, together with over 1300 farmers, has filed charges against both the author and against representatives of the Oekum publishing house and the Environmental Institute, claiming that such criticism is slanderous and has harmed agriculture in South Tyrol.

Complaint with consequences

South Tyrol produces about ten percent of all apples in the EU, made possible by intensive agriculture and the use of pesticides. But the pesticides are also deposited in the vicinity of orchards, for example in children's playgrounds, as shown by a 2017 study commissioned by CIPRA South Tyrol. For Andreas Riedl, Executive Director of CIPRA South Tyrol, the actions of the provincial council are incomprehensible: “The real damage to the image of South Tyrol's fruit-growing industry is the completely exaggerated reaction of the provincial council and the farming community in making these claims. The goal should be to develop farming further to make it more sustainable, not get involved in personal disputes.”

A good 200,000 people and over 100 organisations from the environmental, social and consumer protection sectors have shown their solidarity with the defendants. Shortly before the trial began, Councillor Schuler announced that he would withdraw the charges. The trial nevertheless opened in Bolzano/I, in mid-September, as the co-plaintiffs had not given their consent. The public prosecutor's office also ordered that the farm records of the farmers involved be confiscated: these contain the exact quantities of pesticides that are sprayed on their fields. As the critics of pesticide use have refused to keep this unique data secret, the Councillor has now qualified his announcement that he would drop the case.


Sources and further Information: (de), (de), (de), (de), (de), (it), (it)