Position paper of BIO Deutschland "Biotech alternatives to meat, seafood, egg and dairy products"
More than half of Germany’s land is used for agriculture.1 So agriculture has a greater impact on natural ecosystems and environmental resources like soil, water and air than almost any other sector. The intensification of agriculture in recent decades has been accompanied by high nutrient surpluses and the use of pesticides.
This contributes not only to the dramatic decline of insect and bird populations, but also leads to high nitrate levels in groundwater and causes emissions that are harmful to the climate. At the same time, climate change, with its extreme weather events like drought, storms and flooding occurring at ever shorter intervals, continues to progress and is causing massive crop failures.
Intensive livestock farming is responsible for over 60 percent of total emissions from our agriculture sector. More than 212 million livestock are kept in cramped conditions on German farms, and these animals are fed large quantities of imported protein feed and grain.2 Almost 60 percent of the German grain harvest is used as animal feed.3 The food system also relies on other imported goods, such as tropical oils (palm oil), cocoa and coffee, which are linked to rainforest destruction and whose supply chain stability is of key importance.
To meet commitments made under the Paris Climate Agreement, coal, oil and gas consumption must also be massively reduced. The industry therefore wants to use both agricultural biomass and secondary biomass for a wide range of applications. So going forward, this will require that croplands provide not only feed and food, but also increasingly raw materials for building materials, chemicals, everyday products and, of course, energy. The demand for the latter will increasingly be met by residual and waste materials from agriculture and food production. Yet it can be assumed that this additional demand will also lead to increasing land requirements. However, valuable, species-rich biotopes, such as wet meadows, fallow land and grassland, should not be further endangered.
If our food system and our food and consumption patterns continue on their present course, we will miss international climate and biodiversity targets in the coming decades, even if impacts from other sectors can be rapidly reduced or eliminated.4 Scientific models show that, based on projected population and income trends, by 2050 the negative environmental impacts on our established food system could increase by 50 to 90 percent unless technological innovations occur, consumption habits change, and other targeted mitigation measures are put in place.5
We must guarantee our food security and produce raw materials for material use, while also sustainably transforming our agriculture and preserving biodiversity refuges. To achieve this, we need to significantly reduce livestock numbers, as well as the import and export of animals, animal products, animal feed, and tropical products linked to rainforest destruction. In the best case scenario, we would have to lower our consumption of animal products by up to 80 percent in the future: this means cutting back on the amount of sausage, steaks, cheese, butter, milk, eggs and fish in our diets.
Such a transformation of our eating habits will not succeed solely as a result of voluntary abstinence, bans or strict price regulation. Everyone has different eating habits and preferences. While some people choose to simply go without, others don’t want to abstain and have a desire for animal product alternatives that are familiar in terms of flavour, texture and functionality. This cannot be achieved through plant-based substitutes alone. This is where cellular agriculture and precision fermentation come into the picture. As an important supplement to traditional agriculture, these technologies represent a vital pillar in a sustainable food system that ensures a reliable, secure and plentiful food supply for the future.
BIO Deutschland therefore calls for the creation of political framework conditions that enable the promotion and development of diverse sustainable, biotechnological alternatives to animal and other resource-intensive food products. In this way, the number of livestock in Germany can be reduced and strain can be taken off supply chains, while at the same time strengthening Germany as an industrial location. Cellular agriculture and precision fermentation should be integrated into the food system as a complementary pillar in the German government’s holistic nutrition strategy.
3 www.praxis-agrar.de/service/infografiken/wie-steht-es-um-die-hofnachfolge-bei-landwirtschaftlichen-betrieben, accessed on 6 July 2023
4 Willet et al. 2019
5 Williams et al. 2021