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How the "Food for Biodiversity" association aims to safeguard biodiversity in food production

by Horst Fiedler (comments: 0)

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Worldwide, around one million species are threatened with extinction. Conventional agriculture in particular is criticized in this regard. © Pixabay / kie-ker

67 measures to protect biodiversity are on the table at the still young association. The founding members include environmental associations, standard setters and food companies such as Nestlé.

A high quantum of biodiversity has only become possible through agriculture. However, the now largely industrialized cultivation processes are reversing this development: According to a report by the World Biodiversity Council (IPBES), around one million species are threatened with extinction worldwide. Conventional agriculture is particularly under fire. Biodiversity is probably still a foreign word on many farms. The association wants to change that.

The founding members of Food for Biodiversity include the food sector companies Rewe Group, Kaufland, Lidl and Nestlé, the standard organizations Fairtrade Germany, Rainforest Alliance and Naturland, the environmental associations Global Nature Fund, Nature Conservation Association Germany (Nabu), Lake Constance Foundation and the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), as well as the business unions Association of Organic Food Producers (AöL) and the Biodiversity in Good Company Initiative as supporting members.

Other members - including representatives of the agricultural sector - would be welcome. In the case of commercial enterprises, "purchasing responsibility" is required - so, for example, wholesalers with private labels and companies such as Alnatura from the organic sector could also have a say in the fate of the association.

Basis for action plan already developed

One of the first tasks of the General Assembly will be to adopt a basic set of 67 measures for the protection of biodiversity. They are based on analyses of 54 standards and procurement guidelines of companies that were examined for their relevance to biodiversity protection. The results are summarized in the Baseline Report from 2017. The recommendations for action developed from this have already been tested in part. EU Life and the German Federal Foundation for the Environment funded the extensive study, which identified many shortcomings in standards and companies with regard to biodiversity.

Implementation in pilot projects by 2023

Together with producers, the companies and standards of the Food for Biodiversity association will apply the basis set in pilot projects and document the implementation of the measures - especially for agricultural products whose cultivation is particularly risky for biodiversity. In 2023, the basis set is to be revised if necessary and adopted with a concrete timetable for consideration in explicitly all supply chains.

Another shortcoming from the baseline report: "We asked the standards analyzed whether they offer training on aspects of biodiversity to their contract farmers, certifiers and other suppliers. The feedback on this confirms that the topic of biodiversity is not addressed in the current training courses." The association's goals therefore include training.

The members of "Food for Biodiversity" want to contribute to the achievement of the association's goals by:

  • anchoring the protection and promotion of biodiversity in their strategies, guidelines and projects.
  • implementing criteria for the protection and promotion of biodiversity along the supply chain in purchasing and standard specifications. Farmers are to be supported in implementing the criteria and corresponding measures.
  • implement a monitoring of the development of biodiversity on farms. Based on the results, measures to promote biodiversity will be further developed.
  • Conduct training on biodiversity for employees, farmers, agricultural advisors and auditors, raise awareness among consumers of the value of biodiversity for food production, and promote the supply and demand of appropriate products.
  • Last but not least, members will also advocate for better policy frameworks to strengthen the protection of biodiversity.

Each member implements the criteria of the association in its own projects. Only a turnover-based membership fee is to be paid to the association, which is coordinated by the Lake Constance Foundation and the Global Nature Fund. Supporting memberships without voting rights are also possible.

The Board of Directors consists of:

  • Marion Hammerl (Global Nature Fund/Lake Constance Foundation),
  • Andrea Schwalber (Nestlé),
  • Nadja Kasperczyk (FibL),
  • Farmer Peter Zens from Erlebnisbauernhof Gertrudenhof GmbH (Biodiversity in Good Company)

Nestlé tests recommendations for wheat cultivation

The most prominent member of the Food for Biodiversity association is undoubtedly Nestlé. The world's largest food manufacturer already has projects underway in Italy and Spain. There, for example, it provides nesting boxes for bats in tomato-growing areas, which also help to control pests, as sustainability manager Andrea Schwalber, who is also a board member of the association, explains. The renaturation of riparian strips is another measure in favor of biodiversity. With reference to the EU Life project "Insect-friendly regions," Nestlé is testing recommendations for action together with wheat and vegetable suppliers. At present, the Group has sustainable sourcing programs for 14 strategically important raw materials where action is needed, Schwalber said.

Nestlé does not have a fixed share for the promotion of biodiversity in the budget for sustainable procurement programs, so that no comparison can be made with the sales volume. The company finances the measures, which are mostly planned in cooperation with NGOs, on a case-by-case basis.

The profitability of a project is always taken into account. For example, the company is not seeking to convert its cultivation partners to organic farming. The general conditions for this are not given, especially since Nestlé buys its raw materials worldwide. And even in Germany, the company is having a hard time with organic products: the production of an organic Wagner Pizza, which was once sold by organic food stores, was discontinued soon after the takeover.

Procurement guidelines narrow scope

According to Alexander Antonoff, press officer at Nestlé Germany, the focus is on improvements in conventional farming. Changes in procurement guidelines would ultimately have to apply globally as well - this is more likely to be realized in conventional farming than choosing an organic standard as the default. For example, the reduction of pesticides is one of the group's goals in the procurement of raw materials.

Glyphosate is also reportedly an issue in the decision on the basic set, i.e. the association's action plan. It will be interesting to see whether the members show the agri-toxin the red card ahead of time.

Naturland: Need for action in organic farming, too

That organic farming does not at the same time mean "optimal" biodiversity is suggested by a statement from the growers' association Naturland: "Organic farming already makes a considerable contribution to the preservation of biodiversity in our agricultural landscapes through its farming methods. At the same time, Naturland as an organic association sees it as its task to do even more here - also and especially in alliance with other social actors."

The Food for Biodiversity association brings together a wide variety of partners along the entire value chain of the food sector. "It is important that organic farmers, who are at the beginning of the value chain, are also at the table from the start. After all, they produce our food and it is on their meadows and fields that biodiversity is created. That's why Naturland was happy to accept the invitation to get involved in this broad network."

From the organic sector, the Association of Organic Food Producers (AöL) has also joined the association. But rather as a supporting member with the aim of encouraging its own member farms to join. "I am confident that the association will be successful," says Renate Dylla, deputy executive director. She has already informed the AöL members about the goals of Food for Biodiversity.

Food industry depends on biodiversity

The emerging involvement of the food industry (other groups are said to have registered their interest) is perhaps no coincidence. After all, the food industry with agriculture as the most important player is named in the EU Biodiversity Strategy 2030 as one of the three economic sectors most dependent on biodiversity. The association Food for Biodiversity and its members therefore want to make a relevant contribution to achieving the goals of the German and European Biodiversity Strategies, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the UN Sustainable Development Goals.



If you are interested in becoming a member of the Food for Biodiversity Association, please contact Stefan Hörmann of the Global Nature Fund, for example, by e-mail.



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