Germany’s pre-UN food summit talks criticised for ignoring ‘most marginalised’

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for national debates to identify possible solutions in the run-up to the UN Food Systems Summit in September. [Joanna Poe/Flickr]

In the run-up to the UN Food Systems Summit in September, Germany’s agriculture ministry launched its preparatory process at a conference this week where politicians, agriculture and health experts exchanged their views on future food production. But the dialogue was criticised for missing the voices of marginalised people. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The three-day conference, titled ‘Pathways to Sustainable Food Systems’ is part of the process of developing Germany’s contribution to the UN Food Systems Summit which will take place in September, the agriculture ministry explained.

“The UN Food Systems Summit offers the chance to make ourselves honest, to readjust where necessary,” said parliamentary state secretary Uwe Feiler, who kicked off the event on behalf of Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner. “At the end of the process there should be a joint action plan with concrete measures,” he added.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for national debates to identify possible solutions in the run-up to the summit.

The declared aim of the UN Summit is to provide an impetus for the transformation of the world food system and contribute to achieving the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) for 2030, which include ending poverty and world hunger, combating climate change and protecting natural resources.

However, when it comes to German dialogue, activists have already criticised the way it is being organised.

“It is very important in this crisis that we actually take everyone with us,” said agricultural science student and Fridays For Future activist Lucia Parbel at the conference, noting that the “very people who are the most marginalised in the current food system are not represented on this panel.”

According to the climate activist, these include women and socially weaker groups. It is particularly important to include indigenous peoples in the debate on the international stage, she added.

“We are in very close cooperation with indigenous peoples,” said Joachim von Braun who sits on the summit’s scientific advisory board, dismissing the criticism.

The role of agriculture

Mathias Mogge, secretary-general of German association Welthungerhilfe, highlighted the role of agriculture in fighting world hunger, noting that “the situation is really dramatic, we have to do something urgently here,” Mogge said.

“We have to keep in mind that factory farming, as we have it here in Europe, among others, is no longer sustainable,” he added.

Also discussed were ways of improving environmental sustainability in food production.

“This is about climate friendliness – that has to be underpinned with measures and instruments,” said Harald Grether, Professor of International Agricultural Trade and Development at the Humboldt University in Berlin, noting for instance that policies on fertiliser use need to be improved, moors re-watered and animal welfare policies strengthened.

Farmer livelihood also key

However, Werner Schwarz, vice-president of the German Farmers’ Association, stressed that the financial future of farmers should not be overlooked. “If farmers are not adequately rewarded for services, they are running on the edge of uneconomic viability in many areas,” he said.

Cornelia Berns, the ministry’s representative for the national dialogue, pointed to the EU’s role, saying Germany is also involved “at the European level with the aim of creating fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food systems”.

In May this year, the bloc’s 27 agriculture ministers adopted conclusions emphasising the importance of the summit and identifying key EU concerns for it, stating that a number of measures are being planned within the framework of the EU’s flagship strategies in this area, the Green Deal and the Farm-to-Fork Strategy.

Among other things, the EU wants to launch a legal framework for sustainable food systems and a code of conduct for responsible business and marketing practices.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

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