25 January 2023
South Tyrol prides itself on having the largest continuous apple-growing orchard in Europe. Apples are the number one export. However, apple orchards in South Tyrol continue to be subjected to massive pesticides treatment. For years, the region has held a top position in Italy in the use of chemicals: per hectare, about 45 kilograms are sprayed annually to combat fungi, bacteria and weeds. Activists and enviromental NGOs campaigned actively against this pesticide pollution.
In 2020, the NGO Umweltinstitut München led by Karl Bär, (currently a Green member of the German Bundestag) has been sued for defamation by 1376 apple farmers and their producer groups.
Charges were dropped in 2022 as all farmers withdrew their complaints due to international pressure against these attempts of silencing civil society and freedom of expression.
In the course of the court proceedings, the Italian police seized over 600 pesticide spraying records showing how much pesticides are being used. The Umweltinstitut has evaluated these documents and delivered shocking results with over 590 000 pesticide spraying activities in just one season, leaving no days without pesticide application in the region.
Thomas Waitz, co-chair of the European Green Party and Member of the European Parliament, comments:
« European citizens deserve good and pesticide free food and living environment. This pesticide scandal is a strong reminder that Europe needs to drastically reduce the use of synthetic pesticides. Agroindustry businesses’ dangerous use of pesticides, harmful for humans, harmful for biodiversity, harmful for the environment is proven and put into the spotlight. Member states and agroindustry businesses are constantly trying to water down the much needed legislation.
It also shows how important it is to protect civil society against SLAPP suits. Silencing critical campaigns and trying to limit freedom of speech are more and more a popular method.”
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