AGRICULTURE AND FOOD
Healthy foods based on respect in our dealings with nature
The quality of various foods and their sustainable production are themes which many people consider today. Meat from factory farming, genetically modified plants or foods with unnecessarily long transport routes are being shunned more than ever, whereas organic foods are increasingly in demand. The Demeter brand plays a pioneering role among the bio labels and certificates for organic foods: for more than 85 years it has been labelling foods that have been produced in accordance with the principles of biodynamic agriculture. The MAHLE FOUNDATION is convinced that biodynamically operated agriculture has a major positive effect on the well-being of the environment, society and the individual.
Biodynamic agriculture is a form of agriculture that has developed from anthroposophic ways of thinking and whose basis is a commitment to dealing with nature in a respectful way. Nature here means not only animals, plants and soils, but also landscapes and their specific composition and the environment as a whole. One consequence of this of course is that all types of animals have to be kept in a manner which is appropriate for their species and nature. At the same time this also produces the best quality food.
In many respects the Demeter guidelines go well beyond the requirements of the EU-Eco regulation. The underlying principles of biodynamic agriculture were first developed in the early 1920s by Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the anthroposophy movement. The MAHLE FOUNDATION supports businesses, research work or apprenticeships which take part in or promote this form of agriculture.
Underlying principles of biodynamic agriculture
Agricultural businesses and farms are organisms - this is the fundamental idea of biodynamic agriculture. Specialisation is accordingly rejected. On biodynamic farms there is an interaction between various processes: the "waste" from animal husbandry is used as fertiliser for the fields, as a result of which the arable land is kept alive in a natural manner. The plants grown serve in turn as animal feed. Furthermore, animals which are not used directly, such as bees or birds, and areas of land which are uncultivated have their place in this form of agriculture and are not abandoned due to "rationalisation".
The use of chemical fertilisers and the cultivation of always the same type of plant in a field, which are standard practice in conventional agriculture, do not apply here. One special feature of biodynamic agriculture is certain preparations, such as those made from field horsetail, which are used to revitalise the soils and plants.
The representatives of biodynamic agriculture are also convinced that agriculture cannot be standardised, but is tied to the location in which it is carried out: it has to take a form which is specific to the local conditions in terms of the soil and terrain, the availability of water, the temperature and intensity of the seasons. A globalised single form of cultivation with only a few crops is therefore rejected. Instead, plants are developed through targeted, sustainable research and breeding which are ideally suited to the conditions of the region in which they are grown and deliver the highest and best-quality yield over the long term.
Examples of support from the MAHLE FOUNDATION in the field of agriculture and food
The commitment of the MAHLE FOUNDATION in the field of biodynamic agriculture and food. The Foundation promotes various projects, for example relating to seed research and the Save our Seeds (SOS) initiative of the Berlin office of the Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft in der GLS Treuhand e.V. ("Foundation for the Future of Agriculture at GLS Treuhand (registered association)) in Bochum. The triggers for its foundation were considerations by the European Commission to issue a Directive that allowed the contamination of conventional and organic seed with genetically modified organisms of between 0.3 and 0.5 per cent. This would have resulted in the end of agriculture which was free from genetic engineering, since seed – the basis of our diet – is a living organism that reproduces. The SOS initiative was able to prevent the project of the European Union by means of a petition together with education and civil protests. Since then it has been committed to keeping seed free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and is supported in its demands by 300,000 citizens and around 300 organisations with more than 25 million members throughout Europe.
The respectful treatment of animals is the long-term research goal of agricultural scientist Dr. Claudia Schneider, who works at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) on the topic of "horned dairy cows in loose housing systems' and is also subsidised by the MAHLE FOUNDATION. Background: the dairy cow with horns is an outdated model which is rarely seen today in German and European cowsheds. There are no statistics, but it can be assumed that over 70 per cent of all cows have their horns removed while they are still calves – an extremely painful procedure which subjects the young animals to enormously high levels of stress. Demeter is the only organic association which prohibits its farmers from dehorning cows out of respect for the animals and for reasons of quality. From her research, Dr. Claudia Schneider has reached the conclusion: cows with horns can also be kept in loose housing. However, the husbandry systems must be adapted to the animals rather than the animals to the systems.
The projects mentioned above are only a small selection of the wide range of initiatives that are supported by the MAHLE FOUNDATION within the framework of its subsidisation of agriculture and food.