Germany goes green

"A new politics that stands for consumer protection, improved food safety and natural environment friendly agriculture by reversing the age old practice is needed,' said German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder while creating a powerful new consumer protection ministry. Renate Kunast, co-chairperson of the Green Party, will head the new ministry. "We wanted to achieve food safety through rearing animals in a natural way and ecologically sound farming methods,' Schroder added. Experts believe that this move could influence the direction of agriculture throughout Europe.

The resignation of two ministers over the spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis had prompted Schroder to create the new ministry. The ministry will combine the previous responsibilities of the agricultural ministry with those of the consumer protection departments.

The chancellor's clear endorsement of environmental farming and the appointment of Kunast have boosted the Green Party. But the new ministry is set for a head on collision with the powerful farming lobby of the country. In her first ministerial press conference, Kunast said that priority would now be given to consumer safety, not to the interests of the agricultural lobby. Signalling a fundamental shift in agricultural policy as a result of the crisis over the BSE, she said that restructuring would take place for ecologically sound ways of raising crops and cattle. She added that agricultural subsidies would be directed at ecofarming, not production methods that jeopardised food standards. At the conference, she repeatedly referred to the "ministry for consumer safety' instead of the previously used term of "ministry of agriculture'. Referring to BSE she told that the most important thing is to restore the confidence of consumers.

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