Less livestock, more food production for humans, shorter distances: How environmental scientist Sabine Keßler from the Institute of Organic Agriculture sees the future of agriculture – and why it won't work without a change in diet.
Lëtzebuerger Journal: The project "Luxembourg in Transition" you were involved in was about nothing less than a vision of a climate-neutral, sustainable and resilient Luxembourg by 2050. Is climate-neutral agriculture even possible?
Sabine Keßler: There is no such thing as a truly climate-neutral agriculture. Rather, we must try to minimise environmental damage, including climate damage, in order to achieve sustainable agriculture. Luxembourg in Transition has dealt with the topic primarily in terms of spatial planning. The keywords were diversification, creating a diverse landscape, increasing ecological continuity and integrating environmental protection and nature conservation more strongly. But this also means less fodder production and more production for human nutrition and ensuring that we have the shortest possible transport routes for our food and agricultural products at the level of the Greater Region. And to have more local marketing structures in order to reduce CO2 emissions.
What does this mean in concrete terms for agriculture, which in Luxembourg is largely characterised by grassland and the associated cattle farming?
We have to move towards land-based animal husbandry. We have to say that we can only have as many ruminants in Luxembourg as we can actually feed through grassland-based feeding. Of course, there can also be some maize feed, but we definitely have to stop buying soya from overseas and try to keep only as many animals as we can subsequently process and spread on the land in terms of farm fertilisers.
How important is organic farming in this scenario? According to studies, food from organic production has a significantly smaller emissions footprint, but organic farming also produces emissions. In the end, is organic farming "merely" the better alternative?
In the end, organic farming is indeed "only" the better concept, if you want to put it that way. Organic agriculture certainly still has potential to improve, otherwise we would not need the IBLA and other research on organic agriculture to further reduce emissions. We certainly cannot avoid them.
But we need to look not only at the climate, but also at many environmental aspects. Of course, everyone is talking about the climate crisis. But we also have a biodiversity crisis. Organic agriculture can improve a lot in this area. Three years ago, a major meta-study (by Jürn Sanders and Jürgen Heß, ed.) clearly showed what organic farming can do for society.
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