Germany waves through new package of laws to reverse insect decline
The federal cabinet has given its approval to a new package of laws designed to protect insects in Germany. After protests from both farmers and environmentalists, the new legislation is ultimately a compromise.
Insect Protection Act initiated in Germany
At a press conference this week, Federal Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner and Federal Environment Minister Svenja Schulze announced that the new version of the Federal Nature Conservation Act (commonly referred to as the Insect Protection Act) and a change to the so-called Plant Protection Application Ordinance had been initiated.
Targeting the main causes of insect mortality - the intensive use of pesticides, the loss of flowering plants and light pollution - the new legislation aims to improve living conditions for insects in Germany. Among other things, the use of the controversial weed killer glyphosate is to be severely restricted, before being completely banned by the end of 2023.
The legislation will also attempt to combat light pollution, which has only relatively recently been highlighted as a major driver of insect decline - for instance by luring moths to their deaths around bulbs, obscuring the mating signals of fireflies, or spotlighting insect prey for rats and toads. In future, for example, more insect-friendly light sources should be used, or shades should be fitted to artificial lights; the construction of harmful lights in nature reserves or national parks will be banned.
Species-rich grassland, meadow orchards, cairns and dry stone walls - all of which provide habitats for insects, reptiles and plants - should be protected and promoted as biotopes. Insect protection will also be given greater consideration in future landscape planning.
Environmentalists welcome change - but farmers are unhappy
The two regulations have both been the source of much controversy - with farmers and environmentalists arguing over just how far the new laws should go. The former fear economic losses due to further restrictions on the use of pesticides. The President of the German Farmers’ Association, Joachim Rukwied said that enforcing insect protection would threaten the livelihoods of many farming families.
The Federation for Environment and Nature Conservation Germany (BUND) welcomed the package. “Every kilogram of pesticide saved, every pesticide-free square kilometre of land and every saved light source is positive for insects and nature,” said chairperson Olaf Bandt. However, BUND added that the package did not go far enough, and that the eventual goal must be the permanent abandonment of the use of pesticides.
Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner said the change in legislation was a good compromise, pointing out that agriculture was dependent on nature remaining intact, just as insects need cultivated agriculture to survive.