Grand Coalition Agreement | © Dr. Sabine Bonneck

No surprises in agriculture and nutrition

8 pages about agriculture and nutrition

On February, 7th, the German parties CDU/CSU and SPD published their coalition agreement. 8 out of 185 pages are dedicated to agriculture and nutrition. The parties want to support a sustainable agriculture, dominated by family-run businesses that are regionally rooted. They want to increase the share of organic agriculture up to 20 % by the year 2030 and to change the European Common Agricultural Politics.

The coalition refuses patents on plants and animals and also animal cloning in the context of food production. It plans a nationwide pohibition of growing genetically modified plants.

Expanding organic farming

The coalition wants to raise the share of organic farming in Germany and to fund regional marketing, especially the Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA). The parties will also fund the environmentally friendly use of pesticides. They want to increase transparency of the approval procedures. Furthermore they want to focus on the protection of bees and to push the digitalization in agriculture. This should help the farmers to use lower amounts of fertilizer, pesticides and drugs in livestock farming.

Animal welfare

The parties support animal welfare. By the mid of the legislation term they want to present a new label for animal products. Consumers shall be able to recognize if the conditions for the animals were better as demanded by legal standards. The coalition wants to support the development of alternative procedures for piglet castration as well as alternatives for animal experiments. The ministry shall present further proposals to improve animal welfare, e. g. in the context of keeping wild or exotic animals or of trading living animals online. The parties want to continue the German way of reducing the use antibiotics in livestock farming.

Diet and sanitary consumer protection

The parties deal with diet and sanitary consumer protection in 12 lines. They recognize that obesity, adipositas and cardiovascular diseases can be caused by the diet and have a negative impact on the invidual quality of life and the public health and welfare systems. The coalition wants to improve the situation by increasing the appreciation of food and decreasing food waste. It wants to support food start-ups and stresses the importance of nutritional education.

Healthy diet

The coalition intends to continue with the existing programs, e. g. the Nationale Reduktionsstrategie, that aims for a voluntary reduction of sugar, salt and fat in processed food. If the Commission wants to introduce a nutrition labelling, the parties want to examine in detail whether it can be applied on the German dietary habits.

Furthermore

The coalition wants to strengthen the milk farmers and to further extend the strong export focus of the German agriculture. The parties want to “observe” advertising aimed at children. They support the European approach, based on a voluntary self-committment by the industry.

These are facts as you can read them in the grand coalition agreement. This text could have been written in the subjunctive because the parties would want to realize their plans if they form the next government. It is still unclear whether the members of the SPD will agree to the contract. This is the last obstacle for the parties on their way to build the next grand coalition. According to the media coverage the CDU politician Julia Klöckner is the most promising candidate for the ministerial office.

Criticism from many quarters

Many stakeholders expressed their criticism.

The plans of the coalition are not concrete, e. g. regarding the European Common Agricultural Politics. Regarding other topics the critics accuse the parties to stay passive in spite of a visible need for action, e. g. animal welfare, advertising aimed at children or nutrition labelling of processed food. Critics question the sense of the animal welfare label, if even products shall get it, that just fulfill the basic legal requirements.

The coalition parties also received approval. The BLL – the German Federation for Food Law and Food Science (Bund für Lebensmittelrecht und Lebensmittelkunde e. V.), the leading association of the German food sector, welcomes explicitely the grand coalition agreement. Agrarheute highlights concrete plans for agriculture. The BfR made a positive statement regarding the announcement to increase transparency in pesticide approval procedures.

The German Animal Welfare Association considers a statutory prohibition of killing 1-day-old chicks as positive and also the idea to request the Commission to conduct more effective controls of live animal transports. At the same time the animal welfarists raise criticism: Regarding the permission of piglet castration under local anesthesia, regarding the animal welfare label, introducing better conditions for hunters and weaken the protection of the wolf.

Politics in parts not up to date

The parties state explicitely that they do not want to change anything regarding diet and sanitary health protection, advertising aimed at children and the use of antibiotics in livestock farming. This is a surprise for everybody who has followed these topics in the ongoing public discussion. Plenty study results indicate that just information is not enough to protect the people from unhealthy food choices and obesity.

Health Canada, the Canadian Food and Health Authority, just conducted a public consultation regarding advertising aimed at children. Most stakeholders support politics that sets limits for the advertising companies. And in the context of antibiotics, Denmark and the Netherlands are the only countries that made visible progress in reducing the quantities in livestock farming. One cannot overestimate the importance of this topic. Because of the heavy use of antibiotics more and more resistant germs are found everywhere. Subsequently the treatment of supposed harmless illnesses of the people will become increasingly complicated or even impossible.

Many vague statements

Regarding the contents the agreement of the food producers and the criticism of the consumer advisors are very meaningful.

Many vague and abstract statements are evident. The text is filled with non-binding declarations of intent: “We want…”, “We support…”. In hardly any context the parties provide a policy that can be verified or a detailed description that enables the reader to get an idea of what shall be happening. The coalition describes comparatively exactly plans that do not belong to the biggest societal problems. For instance, the parties state that they do not want to accept any longer damages caused by the wolf. They intend to weaken its protection as much as possible in the European frame.

Hardly any verifyable objectives

Just in exceptional cases the parties set a date or a timeframe to finish a project.

By the mid of the legislation term the coalition wants to realize improvements in animal welfare. Within two years they want to clarify the preconditions for an animal welfare label, they want to prohibit the killing of 1-day-old chicks and to make proposals for further measures, regarding e. g. the online trade of animals and keeping exotic animals.

Proposals for an animal welfare label have already been made. The first German retailer even implemented the labelling system already.

Post Scriptum: The new agriculture minister

In March 2018, Angela Merkel built the new government and the conservative Julia Klöckner became agriculture minister. Modifications of the grand coalition agreement regarding agriculture and nutrition are not known. Klöckner stated that she focuses on three topics: Animal welfare, digitalisation and exports.

 

Dr. Sabine Bonneck