Nutrition – Biodiversity conservation with a knife and fork – Economics

Berlin (dpa) – Be it controversial palm oil or cheap meat with questionable climate balance – it is well known that some foods are not good for the CO2 footprint. But how does the average German diet affect biodiversity?

A new study by the environmental organization WWF sheds light on the footprint we leave in our diets in terms of the diversity of life in the country. The result: what we eat has a big impact on biodiversity – not only in this country but also in remote regions.

Animal products are the most harmful to biodiversity

The so-called biodiversity footprint as a value in the WWF study is calculated in a relatively complex way. Roughly speaking, it’s about how much our diet affects natural areas with their animals and plants in Germany and around the world. In numbers, the specific effects of consuming various foods are as follows: Animal products such as meat, sausage, eggs or cheese make up by far the largest share of the carbon footprint, with 77 percent. On the other hand, only 23 percent comes from consuming plant-based foods such as fruit, vegetables, grains and nuts.

In the case of animal products, it is mainly the large amount of space needed for animal feed that has a negative effect. “Everything we have on our plates or buy is produced somewhere and therefore needs space,” said Tanja Dräger, nutrition expert at WWF Germany, dpa. On the one hand, you are dependent on intact services, but on the other hand, you are putting them in jeopardy. The result, the study concludes, is that the higher the proportion of plant-based foods in the diet, the lower the biodiversity footprint it causes worldwide .

Experts have long recognized a decline in biodiversity: the World Biodiversity Council (IPBES) warns that within a few decades around one million animal and plant species could become extinct. Our food systems play a key role here, according to the expert panel. They account for 70 percent of biodiversity loss on land and 50 percent in rivers and lakes.

Great for a vegetarian diet

In addition to the current situation, the WWF study also explains how the altered diet of the Germans could benefit biodiversity. With a flexitarian diet that includes reduced consumption of animal products, our global biodiversity footprint can be reduced by 18 percent – with a consistent vegetarian diet by up to 46 percent and vegan by 49 percent.

Therefore, nature in Brazil would benefit particularly from rethinking the diet – primarily because growing soybeans for animal feed would then require much less space.

Whether it’s bees, coughs or butterflies in Germany, orangutans in Malaysia or anteaters and jaguars in Brazil – there are many species that can be protected through more conscious nutrition, says expert Dräger. “In this respect, there is great potential to contribute to the protection of habitats if you reduce your consumption of animal products. It’s also good for your health. ” Research should therefore create awareness of what your own food consumption can do.

A new study by a team led by Ann-Katrin Betz of Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg suggests that people in restaurants are more likely to choose climate-friendly foods if it is labeled as such on the menu, and the environmental benefits are clear to them that their consumer behavior is made aware of. In a survey published in the journal Plos Climate, 256 people chose from a variety of hypothetical menus. They were shown to choose more climate-friendly vessels when carbon labeling was present and when components consisted of low-carbon options.

WWF demands a tax on sustainable development

Nevertheless: Dräger emphasizes that the burden cannot be placed solely on the shoulders of the consumers. “Politics and business are welcome here.” Specifically, based on its results, WWF is calling on the federal government to implement a nutrition strategy by 2023 and switch to a sustainability tax. “We are currently seeing that certain plant-based products or meat substitutes are more expensive than meat alone,” says Dräger. In addition, domestic cultivation of fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes should be expanded.

Antje Risius, who studies sustainable eating styles at the University of Göttingen, summarizes what everyone has to do to protect biodiversity – and what politics and business must do: “Start first”. Efficient use of resources is crucial. A plant-based diet allows you to combine health, economic and environmental aspects.

For consumers, however, this means that information and products must be shared. “Of course, those who set the framework are first here – that is, politics and business,” says Risius. Creating a fair framework for the appropriate adaptation of eating habits is a task for society as a whole.

© dpa-infocom, dpa: 220512-99-255886 / 2

Leave a Comment