Sustainable agriculture is essential to maintain a healthy ecosystem. However, intensive agriculture, which is widespread in Germany, has negative effects on the climate and the environment. In soils and waters, nitrate levels in many regions exceed the limits permitted in Europe. Greenhouse gas emissions caused by animal husbandry and moorland use must also be reduced. In addition, biodiversity is threatened by a dwindling diversity of agricultural crops and livestock. 

The external costs of this overexploitation are passed on to society. Society has to pay for the environmental and climate costs, while the steadily increasing production surpluses are pushed into international markets. Since agriculture is work on an open system and environmental protection through technological innovations in this sector has limited potential, a far-reaching change in production and consumption is inevitable. This includes reducing the consumption of meat and milk and their production, reducing the use of pesticides and fertilizers, and the renaturation of peatlands. 

Economic instruments on the producer and demand side can make a significant contribution to the pricing in of external costs. The massive subsidies of the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are a powerful lever in this respect. They should be based on sustainability criteria and contribute to greater cost transparency. True prices should be the driving force behind the necessary turnaround in the agricultural and food sector. Other economic instruments - such as a change in the massive subsidy policy of the European Union, oriented towards sustainability criteria and contributing to more true-cost pricing - must support the necessary turnaround in the agricultural and food sector. 

Ann-Cathrin Beermann