What will sustainable agriculture look like in the future? What are the basic prerequisites for this? These are the questions addressed in the third edition of the acatech HORIZONTE publication series, which was presented at the Künstlerhaus in Munich on 3 December 2019. Just one day after the agricultural summit in the Chancellery, the Academy invited experts from agriculture and food production to a discussion. At an acatech in the morning on 5 December, working group leader Hans-Georg Frede finally discussed with members of the Bavarian State Parliament how the topic of agriculture can also be given greater focus in education.
A decline in biodiversity, intensive animal husbandry, excessive nitrate levels in groundwater, tractor convoys that paralyze large German cities - the debates and events of recent months have shown that the topic of sustainable agriculture is highly topical. "We are still a long way from a sustainable agriculture that does justice to all social groups. A way to achieve this is possible, but it will only succeed if all actors - i.e. consumers, farmers and politicians - come together for a constructive dialogue," explained Hans-Georg Frede, head of the working group of the current acatech HORIZONTE, at the presentation of the publication in the Künstlerhaus in Munich. The aim of the new edition is to create awareness that a balance can only be struck between the three dimensions of sustainable agriculture through dialogue: It had to be socially accepted and socially compatible, ecologically balanced and economically viable at the same time.
Who bears the responsibility on the road to sustainable agriculture?
Andreas Möller, author of the award-winning book "Zwischen Bullerbü und Tierfabrik - Warum wir ein anderen Blick auf die Landwirtschaft brauchen" (Between Bullerbü and Tierfabrik - Why we need a different view of agriculture), sees the question of sustainable agriculture more as a problem for society as a whole: "The agricultural summit in Berlin, the farmers' protests or actions such as the Green Crosses underline that it is high time for another debate on agriculture. Too often the problems in the area of tension between regulatory requirements, the world market and falling producer prices are blamed unilaterally on the farmers. In fact, the problems challenge society as a whole, not least us consumers."
With a view to the agricultural summit and the farmers' demonstrations, Stefan Köhler, representative of the Bavarian Farmers' Association, appealed for an objective, differentiated and scientific discourse between all participants. In particular, he spoke out in favor of farmers who, in view of the ecological demands of the population, believed themselves to be in economic danger. Many national regulations, such as the fertilizer ordinance due to the nitrate problem, did not fit in with regional agricultural conditions. Stefan Köhler also emphasized the potential of digitization - for example, to reduce the use of fertilizers.
Inseparable link between agriculture and food
Much research is being done on new forms of food production. This research can help to make food production more sustainable, also in line with the UN's sustainability goals. Stephan Becker-Sonnenschein from the Global Food Summit, a cooperation partner of the Academy, presented innovative solutions in the field of new food technologies. These include biotechnology methods such as CRISPR/Cas, alternative protein sources and indoor farms in large cities. "It is clear that we will always need food from the countryside. But also that agriculture with AI technology is facing change, especially when urban sustainability ideas are vehemently demanded. These changes in the food chain must be anticipated in good time and prepared in a targeted manner," says Stephan Becker-Sonnenschein.
acatech in the morning at the Bavarian Parliament: How can sustainability be embedded in education?
Two days after the presentation of the publication in the Künstlerhaus, the Academy, represented by working group leader Hans-Georg Frede, presented the core statements of the new edition of acatech HORIZONTE to members of the Bavarian Parliament. As another expert, Uta Löhrer from the Bavarian State Agency for Political Education (BLZ) explained ways of establishing sustainable agriculture and sustainable consumption in education and thus sensitizing society. It is the task of the state headquarters to make a contribution to the tolerance and value education of the population and to impart everyday skills, for example in environmental education as part of political education.
"We need mature people so that they can ask good questions," says Uta Löhrer, "and it is therefore our task to provide knowledge at an early stage. In order to integrate the topic of sustainable consumption into education, she suggested participatory formats such as business games or simulations as suitable communication approaches. One example of this is the concept of a research laboratory developed by acatech, the BLZ and the CAP, in which pupils from urban and rural areas in particular are to be brought into dialogue.
About acatech HORIZONTE
The "acatech HORIZONTE" series examines fields of technology that are fundamentally changing our everyday lives but whose implications are not yet clear. acatech wants to prepare and evaluate such technologies in a differentiated, clear and understandable way. The publications of "acatech HORIZONTE" illustrate a broad discussion process. An accompanying group with personalities from science, business, politics, technical communication and the start-up scene advises acatech on the choice of topics.