Green biotechnology is one of the most controversial and sensitive issues within the agricultural sector. Different innovations based on GM technology not just have high potential for increasing agricultural productivity but also raise concerns within society. In 2012, worldwide more than 160.4 Mio. hectares have been cultivated with GM plants. GM technology is mostly planted in North and South America. However, most European countries do have an reluctant attitude towards GMO. We apply empirical methods to analyze the potential of GM technology from production, resource and socio economic perspectives.
Sustainability management systems in agriculture
Agricultural production in Germany is always the subject of public debate. As a result, farmers are being forced to act in a more ecologically sustainable way due to regulations, such as the fertiliser act. Sustainability management systems offer producers opportunities for systematic ecological, economic and social improvement. The active use of such management approaches in enterprises could create more entrepreneurial scope for sustainable development.
Currently, the most important management and evaluation systems for sustainability in agriculture in the German-speaking countries are considered to be:
- The sustainable agriculture criteria system (KSNL),
- The DLG certification system for sustainable agriculture,
- The "measure-oriented sustainability analysis" - Response Inducing Sustainability Evaluation (RISE).
To date, however, systematic sustainability management approaches have only been used to a very limited extent in agricultural production in Germany. This is attributed, among other things, to: the difficulty involved in data collection and evaluation, the difficulty of quantifying the benefits and the very complex structures of the sector's specific sustainability management systems.
The dissertation project is therefore devoted to the following research questions:
Why do companies in the agricultural and food sectors no longer use sustainability management systems?
Which factors are decisive in a decision situation for / against the use of a sustainability management system?
How are the various aspects of decisions made by entrepreneurs weighted with regard to systematic sustainability management?
In order to answer the research questions, it is necessary to analyse the preference structures of entrepreneurs that cannot be directly observed. For this purpose, discrete choice experiments will be carried out to measure the unobserved preferences of entrepreneurs. Among other things, this method offers possibilities for combining monetary and non-monetary influencing variables.
The aim is to gain statistically verified knowledge about the decision-making structures of entrepreneurs in agriculture, in order to improve sustainability management systems in the future or to model them so that they are quickly accepted and used by the sector. (Veronika Hannus)
AWECOS Project (Rating of wheat cropping systems from an economic, environmental, and social perspective: An example of disease resistance)
The research objective of AWECOS is the identification of promising breeding strategies for winter wheat. The project supports the Bio-Economy Strategy 2030 in regard to the goal of increasing the supply of food and biomass from sustainable cultivation systems and production methods. The aspects of climate change and knowledge transfer are also considered.
The relevance of the research results can be extended to other wheat growing regions of the world and their efforts to increase grain production (including biomass) in terms of world nutrition. Breeding projects are often counterproductive, especially if the desired target characteristics conflict, prolonging the breeding process. AWECOS identifies the advantages and disadvantages of breeding strategies for high performance and resistance in different cultivation systems. The knowledge gained serves as a basis for the selection of the appropriate strategy and supports the assessment of the different effects of contradictory objectives. AWECOS is coordinated by the University of Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) in close cooperation with the Julius Kühn Institute (JKI), the Technical University of Munich (TUM) and Strube Research GmbH & Co. KG. Branches are planned at the Humboldt University Berlin and the University of Applied Sciences Bingen (FH Bingen). The tasks of the Chair of Production and Resource Economics of Agricultural Enterprises at the Technical University of Munich (Prof. Dr. Sauer) are as follows:
Analysis of the economic aspects that influence the different strategies of winter wheat cultivation and the corresponding plant protection measures on the part of the producers.
Economic evaluation of different breeding strategies (yield increase, disease resistance, temperature tolerance in the course of climate change) for winter wheat at farm and sector level, including environmental benefits/costs and associated uncertainties.
AWECOS is financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and runs from 2015 to 2018. (Dr. Hubert Pahl)
Scientific Monitoring of the “Öko-Modellregionen” (Model Organic Regions) in Bavaria
Within the program BioRegio Bayern 2020 Bavarian, communities have been selected as “Staatlich anerkannte Öko-Modellregionen” (state recognized model organic regions). Participating municipalities submitted an application concept in which the status quo of the (organic) agriculture and food sector was evaluated. On the basis of the current situation, concepts for the expansion of organic agricultural production and regional supply and demand of organic food have been developed. The plans include measures to be implemented along the organic value chain (agricultural production, processing, marketing, (public) catering, etc.) and comprises actions to raise awareness about organic issues. In this way sustainable regional development is pursued. The regions for this initiative have been selected by a jury and will receive support for the implementation of their concepts by the Bavarian State Research Center for Agriculture and the Bavarian Institute for Rural Development.
Starting with the nominations of the “Öko-Modellregionen” (model organic regions), the research project will monitor the participants for at least two years. Researchers from the chair group Agricultural Production and Resource Economics, and “Projektbüro mareg” will analyze the impacts of the regional concepts employing comprehensive surveys. These will be conducted and analyzed using resilient qualitative and quantitative methods. The data will be gathered in such a way that both methods „difference in difference“ and „regression discontinuity“ can be used to identify causal dependencies. The surveys will be conducted among farmers, processors, official regional representatives and consumers. Choice experiments will be used to quantify preferences within in these groups.
The research project is funded by the Bavarian State Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Forestry. (Dr. Thomas Venus)
During the last twenty years, EU policymakers have placed high priority on the expansion of bio-based value chains based on indigenous feedstock to reduce use of petrochemicals, mitigate climate change, reduce import dependency and promote local economies. This is evident from a multitude of EU policy initiatives and research programmes, including the recent European Bio-Based Industries Joint Undertaking. Statistics and methods measuring the contribution of the bioeconomy to reaching the societal objectives is relatively well developed for sectors and products that belong to food, feed, pulp & paper and bioenergy chains. However, there is a confirmed lack of information and statistics for emerging innovative industries, such as chemistry and materials sectors that process biomass into bio-based intermediate and end products. This gap includes:
(i) a lack of a comprehensive database with statistics for industrial uses of biomass – so far data among different databases are fragmented and non-comparable;
(ii) a missing transparent methodology for data collection – so far bio-based data collection mostly relies on industry surveys and estimations of experts; and
(iii) a lack of value chain integrated data and indicators illustrating flows from raw materials to industrial end products.
The overall objective of the Monitoring the Bioeconomy (BioMonitor) project is to establish a statistics and modelling framework for the bioeconomy that is effective (supported by a stakeholders’ platform) and robust (compatible with and implementable in existing systems of statistical and customs offices, laboratories and industries). The framework will enable the quantification of bioeconomy and its economic, environmental and social impacts in the EU and its Member States via a wide range of indictors. Interlinks with current standardisation work by the European Committee for Standardization related to bio-based products will be established from the outset of the project.
For reaching the overall objective BioMonitor will design and assess a conceptual data and model framework to provide quantitative evidence (indicators) on economic, environmental and social impacts of a transition to a bioeconomy. We will:
(i) provide systematic monitoring and impact evidence during the project lifetime,
(ii) make sound projections beyond 2030, and
(iii) provide concepts and strategies to increase and to ensure data compatibility with European and international databases (e.g. Eurostat, FAOSTAT, PSD) to enable an implementation by official agencies.