German farmers block Berlin streets to oppose glyphosate ban

26 Nov 2019 | Rei Geyssens

German farmers blocked Berlin’s roads with 5,000 tractors on Tuesday in a protest against the government’s agriculture and environmental policies, which would phase-out the use of the controversial herbicide glyphosate from next year.

The package was introduced in early September by the country’s environment minister Svenja Schulze and includes a wide range of measures such as new rules for fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, as well as new measures on insect protection.

The laws are expected from 2020 to cut the use of plant protection products that contain glyphosate and will completely end the use of the herbicide by 2023.

“Farmers criticise the ban on glyphosate not because they are fans of the product or have forgotten how they can farm without this active ingredient, but because they see from their experience the technical disadvantages associated with a glyphosate ban,” farmer lobby group Landschafft Verbindung said in a press statement.

The group, a farmer-driven initiative set up directly after the government announced its plans, argues that limited use of glyphosate can still be insect-friendly and points out that heavy tilling of the soil before sowing, an alternative to glyphosate spraying, would unleash higher carbon emissions.

Landschafft Verbindung organised the farmers’ protest as it attempted to highlight fears that the plans will undermine German agriculture.

“A fundamental revision of the insect protection action program is necessary. It is not a question of whether we do insect repellent, but only how,” said Joachim Rukwied, president of the German Farmers' Association.

“This means that farmers, politicians and society must find joint solutions for further improving the protection of nature and species,” Rukwied added.

Over 10,000 farmers headed into the capital to protest on Tuesday, sparking chaos as the tractors formed a six-kilometre roadblock.

Currently, the European bloc has licensed the use of glyphosate across its 28 members until the end of 2022, with the renewal process for licensing due to start before the end of 2019.

However, individual member states have already brought in curbs on the use of herbicides, with Austria announcing a ban on glyphosate in July, and France set to phase out 80% of its current usage by the end 2020.

Glyphosate's troubles have deepened since the company's maker, US-based Monsanto, was bought by Germany's Bayer last year for $63 billion.

A US judge awarded damages to a California groundskeeper who had alleged his cancer had been caused by the herbicide. 


The case led to multiple lawsuits and has reignited the debate around the use of glyphosate.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said in its latest risk assessment that current exposure levels do not pose a risk to human health, but the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified the chemical as “probably carcinogenic to humans” in March 2015.

Bayer has appealed against all these court cases and has attempted to debunk the claims, citing regulators and scientific research.