Less meat, more nuts and fruit: the Federal Council wants the Swiss population to eat more sustainably
The Federal Council believes that the Swiss should eat healthier. This should significantly reduce the ecological footprint of agriculture and the food industry. Can this work?
From field to plate: the Federal Council is making a paradigm shift. In the report on “the future direction of agricultural policy”, he no longer takes responsibility for agriculture alone, but pursues a holistic approach. To the great pleasure of the Farmers’ Association: it is pleased that “agricultural policy, now unilaterally centered on farms, is placed under the aegis of a nutritional strategy”.
But what does that change? On the way to a “more sustainable agriculture and food industry”, the Federal Council also calls for the commitment of suppliers, traders, restaurateurs and consumers in the future. The latter in particular should one day make a significant contribution to reducing the ecological footprint of food.
Agriculture Minister Guy Parmelin was convinced of this to the media on Thursday: “Agriculture alone cannot change everything. Ultimately, we as consumers decide what farmers produce. This is where the Federal Council’s agricultural policy strategy comes in. It pursues the objective of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in agricultural production by 40% by the middle of the century compared to 1990, while maintaining a stable degree of self-sufficiency. At the same time, food waste must be reduced by three quarters by 2050.
The Swiss should eat healthier
To this end, the Federal Council has defined four priorities, one of which is aimed directly at the population. “The diet of the Swiss population is unbalanced and associated with a large ecological footprint,” the report says. The Federal Council therefore advises Mr. and Mrs. Schweizer to follow the recommendations of the food pyramid when eating their meals in future. Concretely, this means less meat, alcohol and sweets, more fruits, vegetables and dairy products. In this way, the environmental impact of consumption can be halved, continues the Federal Council.
The Federal Council is planning various measures to ensure that one day only products that are sustainable and, ideally, produced in the region end up in the consumer basket. On the one hand, he wants to increase transparency: anyone who buys an apple, for example, should be able to see at a glance how and where it was produced and what environmental effects are associated with it.
On the other hand, the Federal Council wants to reach the truth of the costs. Means: the costs at the expense of the environment – the so-called external costs – must be reflected in the effective price. It is therefore entirely possible that a conventionally produced apple will cost more than an organic apple in ten years. Both measures aim to facilitate sustainable choices when buying and to ensure “that we are aware of the effects of our consumption”, explains Parmelin.
The Swiss consumer protection welcomes this approach, but specifies in a press release: “Today, durable products are often overpriced and poorly placed in stores”. Mandatory sectoral agreements are therefore needed to specify how food should be labeled in retail and catering. In addition, consumer protection requires full price and brand transparency, “particularly for meat and labeled products”.
Better milk than meat
If it were indeed possible to persuade the population to adopt a healthier and more sustainable diet, this would in turn have consequences for national production: meat consumption would drop sharply, while the consumption of milk, fruit and nuts would increase. The Federal Council therefore already recommends that farmers cultivate more on their arable land for direct human consumption.
Permanent grassland – which represents more than half of the agricultural area – is intended for the production of milk and meat, with dairy production being favored for reasons of efficiency. With this recommendation, the Federal Council is also reacting to the fact that less than 40% of arable land in Switzerland is currently used for the production of human food, while at the same time animal feed imports have almost doubled in course of the past twenty years. .
With its report published on Thursday, the Federal Council paved the way for the resumption of deliberations on the 2022+ agricultural policy previously suspended in the National Council and the Council of States. These begin Monday with the debate in the Economic Committee of the Council of States.