Sustainable Food Systems for a Crisis-proof Society

The invasion of Ukraine entails rapid price increases not only for energy, but also for food. Ukraine is one of the world’s top agricultural producers - it produces 11 percent of the world’s wheat and more than 50 percent of sunflower oil. The freezing of trade relations between many countries and Russia and the disruption of value chains for fertilizers and animal feed are leading to further shortages and price increases. The war thus also leads to a crisis of food systems in a globalized world. Many observers fear a massive impact on global food security. This will probably pose major problems, especially for poor countries that rely on food imports. And in Germany, too, rising food prices will hit people on low incomes disproportionately harder.

In the Berlin University project "Social Cohesion, food and health. Inclusive Food System Transitions," innovation processes intended to make food systems more socially inclusive and sustainable, are analyzed and supported. The scholars and scientists at Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, and Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin are working, among other things, on how food systems can be regionalized. "Brandenburg’s food products can have a much larger share in regional supply than has been the case to date," says Jürgen Zentek from Freie Universität Berlin, who is researching the prerequisites and effects of regionalized value chains.

A case study also examines novel foods such as artificial meat or plant-based proteins. "These foods can also help replace supply chains disrupted by war and give us more options for food supply. They also contribute to climate protection," says the head of the case study, Cornelia Rauh of Technische Universität Berlin. "However, we must not lose sight of social innovations such as new organizational structures and behavioral patterns, which are indispensable for a more responsible use of scarce resources," adds Dr. Martina Schäfer, co-spokesperson for the research alliance. For example, one of the project’s case studies examines a citizens’ joint stock company as a social innovation that provides financial support for the development of regional organic value chains.

"The transformation of food systems is just as urgent as the conversion of energy systems - while keeping a far-sighted focus on sustainability and climate protection, we need to secure supply" is the assessment of project coordinator Peter Feindt from Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. Food systems must become more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive. Good and healthy nutrition for everyone - including future generations - is an essential component of social cohesion. This is an economic, political, and social task made even more urgent by the war in Ukraine.

The Berlin University Alliance

The Berlin University Alliance is a consortium consisting of the three major Berlin universities - Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin - and Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, established to jointly shape research and education in Berlin. The four partners joined forces to further develop Berlin as a research hub with international drawing power. Together the partners explore major societal challenges, increase public outreach, promote the training of junior researchers, address issues of quality and standards in research, and share resources in the areas of research infrastructure, teaching, diversity, equal opportunities, and internationalization. The Berlin University Alliance is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the State of Berlin within the framework of the Excellence Strategy of the Federal Government and State Governments.

Joint press release issued by Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, and Charité -Universitätsmedizin Berlin