Do pesticides poison freedom of expression?

Slow Food stands in solidarity German environmentalists Karl Bär and Austrian author alexander Schiebel accused of defamation in Northern Italy over criticism of massive pesticide use.

On 15 September 2020, at the Provincial Court of Bolzano, in Alto Adige / Südtirol, the trial of Karl Bär, contact person for agricultural and trade policy of The Munich Institute for the Environment, and the Austrian writer and filmmaker Alexander Schiebel, author of the book The Miracle of Mals begins. Sued for defamation by the councilor for agriculture of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, Arnold Schuler, and by over a thousand local farmers, Bär and Schiebel have raised public awareness on the widespread use of pesticides in Alto Adige / Südtirol.

Traktor im Vinschgau 01 (Jörg Farys)

According to the defendants and their lawyers, the complaints and accusations constitute a serious attack on freedom of expression. Slow Food expresses solidarity with Bär and Shiebel and asks for the accusations to be lifted.

Joerg Farys //

“The complaints and legal actions against The Munich Institute for the Environment, and the many people involved in this affair, are groundless and have only one goal: to silence the public debate on the use of pesticides, substances recognized as harmful to human health and the environment.”

Joerg Farys –

In the book The Miracle of Mals – published by Oekom Verlag, the largest German-language publishing house in the field of ecology and sustainability – and in the film of the same name, Schiebel presents the ideologues, activists, and organic farmers of the South Tyrolean town of Mals Venosta and tells the story of their pioneering struggle, which began in 2014, to free the territory of the Municipality from pesticides. Since its publication in 2017, the book has met with considerable public and media attention, decisively influencing the narration of the Mals case in Germany, Austria, and Italy; and it was in 2017 that the provincial councilor for agriculture Arnold Schuler filed a lawsuit against the author Schiebel and the publisher Jacob Radloff, managing director of Oekom Verlag.

Joerg Farys –

Also in 2017, in order to raise the awareness of German public opinion on the widespread use of pesticides in South Tyrol, The Munich Institute for the Environment launched the “Pestizidtirol” campaign by displaying a manifesto at the Karlsplatz subway stop in Munich. In the same year, Councilor Schuler sued the initiative for defamation.

Joerg Farys –

Slow Food expresses solidarity with Karl Bär, The Munich Institute for the Environment, the writer and filmmaker Alexander Schiebel, his editor Jacob Radloff of the Oekom Verlag publishing house, and with all the other people who have been prosecuted in South Tyrol for their pledge against the use of pesticides.

Together with them, we will not stop promoting and asking for a different approach to agriculture and will continue to support the ecological transition of food production, not only in the Alto Adige / Südtirol but around the world. Our wish and invitation to the plaintiffs is to withdraw the accusations as soon as possible and confront in the most appropriate places (society, parliamentary halls, public meetings) with those who oppose the use of pesticides, and not in the courts of justice.

Joerg Farys –

In Alto Adige / Südtirol over eighteen thousand hectares of agricultural land is used for apple growing. Over nine hundred thousand tons of apples are harvested every year, a quantity that corresponds to almost half of Italian production and about 10 percent of the European Union. The high intensity of apple growing involves the use of large quantities of pesticides. According to the most recent Istat data in the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, the sale of pesticides in relation to the treatable surface exceeds the national average by more than six times.


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