Ernährungswende – changes in food production and consumption

Changes in food production and consumption are urgently needed. Because our current food consumption and production is not sustainable – not from a health perspective, not from a social perspective and not from an ecological perspective.

“Our food is contaminated with pollutants, the oceans are overfished, tropical forests are destroyed for our demand for meat and only a small part of our food is fairly traded. Health consequences of malnutrition are on the rise, the exploitation of natural resources goes hand in hand with progressive environmental pollution and destruction, and a lack of distributive justice is increasingly becoming a problem, not only in developing and emerging countries. Even in rich industrialized nations, the gap between rich and poor is widening. While people in many parts of the world are struggling with lack of food and malnutrition and even basic foodstuffs are hardly available, consumers in our countries are flooded with cheap offers and a seemingly limitless variety of products and we have to ask ourselves: How can we deal appropriately with the existing food wealth? Although interest in healthy nutrition is high, wellness and fitness offers are booming, and cooking shows on TV that convey a “new desire for food” are becoming more and more popular, competencies around nutrition are decreasing overall in Germany. Being able to prepare a meal from fresh ingredients, for example, is no longer a matter of course. And in view of the ever-increasing flexibility of the working world, the growing oversupply, constantly changing nutrition tips and an ever more complex everyday diet, there is a growing desire for relief and simplification. But how can people’s nutritional needs be met “sustainably”?

While it is true that agriculture is becoming more environmentally friendly when organic farming is promoted, this has not yet increased the demand for organic food. While it is important to introduce a lunch service in schools, without an overall concept that takes into account the taste and time needs of students, parents and teachers and the school’s scope for action, this will only contribute to a nutritional turnaround to a limited extent. Certainly, nutrition information and counseling can support consumers. However, if they are not offered in a target group-specific and everyday-appropriate manner, environmentally compatible and health-promoting nutrition has only a slim chance of being implemented in everyday life. It is therefore clearly of little use to consider individual problems relating to the subject of nutrition independently of one another. That is why previous approaches to solving the problem have had only limited success. What is missing is an integrated overall concept that involves all citizens and that also enables the socially disadvantaged to eat sustainably. This is the only way to ensure that the food revolution is not just a “project for the better off. Implementing such an overall concept and shaping the nutrition transition is a joint task for society. It concerns politics and administration as well as the food industry, non-governmental organizations and the health sector, and of course the consumers themselves. Strategies are needed that are developed and implemented jointly by all stakeholders. This is what is meant by the term “Ernährungswende” is meant.” (Eberle/Hayn 2007, p. 4/5)

Within the framework of the BMBF-funded research project Ernährungswende, strategies for socio-ecological transformations in the social field of action environment-nutrition-health were developed. For this purpose, among other things, nutritional styles in Germany were identified and the environmental impacts they cause were assessed. The project was led by Dr. Ulrike Eberle (at that time Öko-Institut e.V.) and carried out in cooperation with the Institute for Social-Ecological Research, the Institute for Ecological Economy Research and the Katalyse Institute (2002-2005).

Downloads of project rexults (in German only):

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