Consumers, food and sustainable consumption
Today the manifold range of food products remains almost the same all over the year. This diversity, however, is achieved to a large extent by means of import of food products and by diversification in production and processing activities, that largely use uniform raw materials. Thus, consumers are not aware of the related problems and of the fact that the biodiversity in agriculture is in a rather poor condition. Quite a few breeds, plant species and varieties have already been lost - almost unnoticed.
Except for vine, apples, and maybe potatoes, consumers are not aware anymore of the different varieties and breeds that exists. Today, only few people know, that there are some thousands of different apple varieties in Germany, or some hundreds of tomato varieties. Consumers do not know them, because only few of the thousands of varieties can be found on the market. Thus consumers don`t know anymore the range of quality, taste, healthiness or nutritional value offered by agrobiodiversity.
Demand determines supply
More and more consumers are realising that their behaviour has an effect on the environment and on society. Thus in their purchasing decisions consumers give consideration to the issue of sustainability.
Demand determines supply - thus consumers have a crucial influence on the conservation and sustainable utilisation of agrobiodiversity. We as consumers could ask for seasonal and regional products, for rare fruit and vegetable varieties, for cheese, sausage and meat of rare and regional breeds. We consumers could also ask for traditional varieties or rare species of fruits, vegetables and ornamentals for our garden to support agrobiodiversity.
The German Federal Ministry of Agriculture recently published the German Strategy on Agrobiodiversity. One of the proposed "flagship projects" is a public campaign on agrobiodiversity. It aims to raise public awareness of the importance and value of agrobiodiversity.
But how can consumers know whether the meat they purchase origins from a certain breed, or from a certain region respectively? In this case, labelling of products can help. Region-specific products of specific raw materials, e.g. region-specific varieties or breeds can be labelled with the EU-label "Protected Designation of Origin" (PDO) and "Protected Geographical Indication" (PGI). Success stories for the integration of agrobiodiversity issues are the label "Schwaebisch-Haellische Qualitaetsschweinefleisch g.g.A.", that produces meat from an endangered pig breed or the label for "Diepholzer Moorschnucke" that promotes an endangered sheep breed. Unfortunately, up to now labels are rarely used for the promotion of agrobiodiversity.
In Switzerland there is a special label for agrobiodiversity-friendly products. This label supports farmers marketing activities, and consumers decision-making, which might give an example for other countries.