All cheap foods are good to eat

Agricultural researcher: "Food is way too cheap"

"Food is far too cheap" is the provocative finding of the agricultural economist and winner of the alternative Nobel Prize Hans Herren. Because the low prices lead to waste and sustainably produced products have a hard time asserting themselves. In developing countries a lot is lost in production, in industrialized countries in sales and households.

Herren also believes that current prices do not reflect all of the costs. If the "real costs" were recorded, including climate damage, soil degradation and health effects, then sustainably produced food would already be cheaper than industrially produced food: "We buy cheap in the supermarket, but the community pays for the environment and health," criticized Herren . In a joint conversation, Agriculture and Environment Minister Andrä Rupprechter recalled the motto of the winter conference: "There is no such thing as cheap".

Herren and Rupprecht take a very critical view of the dogma of permanent growth in production. "It's growth, but not that," says Rupprechter: "It's about resource efficiency. That will be the most important topic for the next two decades."

Not more, but better

He does not want to talk about redistribution, because that sounds as if someone had to forego his prosperity in favor of others. In truth, it is about maintaining one's own prosperity and at the same time enabling other people to participate in it. In principle, agriculture does not have to increase its production, because the world is already producing twice as much food - measured in terms of calories - as needed, Herren calculated.

For men, this can be done by introducing regionally adapted modern - and ecological - production methods in agriculture. This often allows the harvest to be tripled quickly, thereby protecting the environment and resources.

It is astonishing, for example, that farmers still work with the plow, although we now know that breaking up the soil is bad for microorganisms as well as for the environment. In Austria up to 30 percent of farmers now work "minimally invasive", estimates Rupprecht. Worldwide, however, the potential would still be great.

Healthy for people and the soil

The goal must be for the floor to be in a better position after the production cycle than before, says Herren. The more humus, the more CO2 from the air is bound. But the way to get there leads on the one hand by changing habits, which requires training and education, on the other hand by investing in other machines. But if the conversion succeeds, then agriculture is less dependent on weather fluctuations and can deliver a more constant yield.

In Africa in particular, there is currently an "enormous bad investment" due to the "missionary approach of US agricultural policy," said Rupprechter. The Americans worked according to the motto "we feed the world" and fully rely on US genetic engineering, but that "is definitely a wrong path", Rupprecht agrees with gentlemen.

In addition, there is the sale of land to large Chinese companies that want to feed the Chinese population from Africa. Africa as a continent certainly has the potential to feed the population. If, on the other hand, one relied on local production adapted to regional conditions, Africa's population could quickly feed itself. (APA, February 22, 2016)