July 5, 2009

Netherlands to be on the top of the food chain

Filed under: Food & Drink,General by Eric @ 2:44 pm

It must have been about 10 years ago, that I became aware of the difference in attitude towards food between Germans and Dutch. I was having dinner with a German friend, when she joked over a slice of quadruple-stranded DNA tomato, that the Dutch were a clever people, packaging sea water into little red bags and selling these ‘water bombs’ worldwide as tomatoes. My reply that apparently the world was stupid enough to buy said water bombs was less well received…

Germans want their food to be ‘bio’: organically grown, without the use of fertilizer or pesticides. The section for ‘bio’ food products in supermarkets shows a continuous growth, on the expense of their non-bio counterparts and ‘bio’ supermarkets pop up on more and more street corners. Living in Munich for over four years, I must admit that I haven’t done any serious grocery shopping in the Netherlands as of lately. I do have the impression, though, that this awareness for the origin and nature of food stuffs is far less pronounced in the Netherlands than here in Germany.

I will thus be very interested to see how minister for agriculture Gerda Verburg’s plans for sustainable food (report ‘Duurzaam Voedsel’) will become effective. The goal is ambitious: “the Netherlands must lead the way worldwide to a sustainable and climate neutral production of food stuffs and be at the top of this movement by 2015” (source (German)). Considering that the Netherlands are apparently the second largest exporter of agricultural products, and on a budget of 20 million euro, this goal might even be viable.

Intensive campaigning and convincing marketing must raise the interest and awareness of the Dutch consumer for sustainable food products and set the trend for choosing ‘bio’. Additionally, the minister plans to fight the enormous waste of food products. An estimated 1.6 million euro worth of food is thrown away in the Netherlands on an annual basis and another 2 billion euro is lost during production and transport.

I think that the only way to get anyone, including the Dutch, to buy ‘bio’ is to make sure that it’s at the same price level as regular food stuffs. I do hope, however, that the minister’s plans include other options than a massive subsidy on bio products, and that a large part of the cash will be invested in research and development. After all, the Netherlands can’t continue to sell water bombs to the world…

(Photo: freefoto.com)

Tags: , , , , ,