The group called "Letzte Generation" (Last Generation) is demanding cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and a law against food waste similar to the one in France, where in February 2016, a law on fighting food waste was adopted. Supermarkets in France are forbidden to destroy unsold food products and are compelled to instead donate it.
For the past nearly three weeks around 250 protesters have taken part in a series of road blockades mainly in Berlin, but also in Hamburg, Munich and other cities. Last week, 15 glued themselves to motorways, causing rush hour traffic jams.
“We demand immediate and decisive action from the new federal government against food waste,” the group declared. “Large supermarket chains should be bound by law to donate any food still edible – and thereby combat hunger as well as drastically reduce their carbon emissions. In order for this to happen, the federal government must pass a law that saves food, following the example of France from 2016.”
In a statement, activist spokesperson Carla Hinrichs said: "By planning to achieve climate neutrality by 2045, the German government is breaking its constitutional obligation to protect our lives.
"By 2030, we will exceed 1.5 degrees (average rise in global temperatures). The government is not only breaking international law but committing a crime against humanity by deliberately heading for a world hotter by 2, 3, 4 degrees with billions dying of hunger," she said.
The activists are currently blocking street crossings to emphasize their demands for a "Food Saving Law". Some dug up a piece of a lawn and planted potatoes in front of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's official residence in Berlin. “Since Chancellor Olaf Scholz is still a long time coming with the necessary announcement as to when there will be a food rescue law, vegetables are now being grown in front of his office,” said Hinrichs.
The protests, as well as drawing criticism from motorists, have been condemned in the Berlin House of Representatives and are believed to have opened divisions within Germany’s coalition government.
“It is unacceptable that thousands of Berliners are being taken hostage every day”, said CDU MP Franz Balzer. “This is an abuse of the liberal Berlin demonstration rights.”
The activists belong to a "fanatical doomsday sect", said AfD politician Marc Vallendar, adding: “They are not activists, but deluded extremists. The city is being terrorized.”
Christoph Minhoff, general manager of the BVE, defended the actions of the sector to curb food waste.
"The blockades are neither justified nor sensible, because they are based on prejudices instead of facts," he said. "German companies donate around 300,000 tons of food to the banks every year - that's more than in countries where anti-disposable laws have been passed.”
He pointed out that in Germany 52% of food losses occur in private households and added the BVE has been committed to combating food loss in many different ways for years by being, for example, a founding member of the "United Against Waste" association.
"It would be helpful if The Last Generation would use their power to convince consumers of the value of food and thus make a constructive contribution against food waste,” he said.