The future of Swiss food is agroecological


Sabine Lerch, Biovision.

The Swiss food system drives and suffers from various crises and problems, such as climate change, biodiversity loss and social inequalities. That is why Biovision promotes agroecology – for a more sustainable food future.

It was a groundbreaking event: the first Swiss Food Systems Summit held in Bern at the beginning of 2023 showed how we can get agricultural and food policy moving. This is urgently needed in light of the greater polarisation reflected in several unsuccessful referendums in recent years, and a parliament that has proven itself to be a growing barrier to implementing a more sustainable food policy. The 260 participants from production, trade and consumption, science, civil society, politics and administration, exchanged views on how to make Swiss food policy more sustainable. The most prominent guest was Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, who is responsible for the agricultural and food industry.

The focus was on the recommendations of the Citizens’ Council for Food Policy and the scientific guidelines on the main levers and policy paths for developing a sustainable food system. To produce the guidelines, a panel of 42 experts analysed where the greatest need for action lies and which leverage points to focus on to achieve social goals. For its part, the Citizens’ Council issued recommendations showing which reforms towards a sustainable food system could be acceptable to the majority of the population. The inputs from both sides and the event itself were made possible by “Food Future Switzerland”, a joint project between Biovision, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and the association «Landwirtschaft mit Zukunft» (agriculture with a future).

Transformation is a task for society as a whole; an artist portrays what is being said live at the Food Systems Summit.

A win-win situation is possible

The summit revealed which frameworks are particularly important for bringing about a sustainable transformation of the food system: firstly, production and consumption will only move towards greater sustainability if effective measures are also implemented by major distributors. The transformation is a task for society as a whole, for which all stakeholders must be held accountable. Secondly, given that incomes in the agricultural and food sectors are often low, change must be equitable and fair.

And what are politicians doing to create the necessary frameworks? In his speech, Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin emphasised that the recommendations of the Citizens’ Council and the expert panel are in line with the future direction of the government’s agricultural policy. However, the Federal Council has set a target horizon of 2050, and the medium-term measures are more of a cosmetic nature.
The summit nevertheless concluded on an optimistic note: a win-win transformation of the food system that benefits the environment, producers and the population in equal measure is possible. Nonetheless, in order to achieve the goals of the United Nations 2030 Agenda and create a sustainable food future, we need to step up the pace considerably.

“Lighthouses” for a better future of food

Since last year, our “Lighthouses for food system transformation” have demonstrated just how diverse the ideas and forms of a sustainable food system in Switzerland already are: across the whole spectrum from farming and processing to cooperation between farmers and consumers, we showcase projects that provide impetus for a better future of food. The businesses and companies presented are from all the regions of Switzerland along the entire value chain. They pinpoint possible solutions for meeting the current challenges and take into account the principles of agroecology in a particularly holistic and innovative way.
The evaluation was carried out using the “B-ACT” tool developed by Biovision. This tool can be used to analyse the extent to which a farm or business applies each of the 13 principles of agroecology, and ultimately, how sustainably it operates. We are thereby creating the basis for engaging in a fact-based debate on the contribution of agroecology to sustainable food systems. With its lighthouse approach, Biovision is aiming to inspire political decision-makers, stakeholders in the food system and consumers.

The added value of agroecology

Building on the successful work of recent years, the adoption of our new programme through 2027 will enable us to work even more consistently to ensure that agroecological principles are taken into consideration in Swiss agricultural and food policy. We will show politicians the way forward by developing new, innovative approaches based on existing initiatives over the next few years. We will work with stakeholders along the value chain – in areas ranging from agriculture and processing to retail and catering, as well as with local authorities and consumers – to develop specific solutions for regional, agroecological food systems by 2027. In this way, we will prove that agroecological approaches work and bring added value for people and the environment.

Showing just how diverse the ideas for a sustainable food system already are today; members of the Filière lighthouse in Meyrin.

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