The organic sector is fighting for fresh, regional and seasonal canteen food – Bremen’s environmental department is fighting to ensure that organic food does not become more expensive.
Even in daycare centers, organic food is not "cost-neutral," says a model project Photo: Julian Stratenschulte/dpa
A fundamental dispute has flared up between Bremen’s organic sector and the Green Ministry for the Environment. At first glance, both want the same thing – namely, that local communal catering should be converted "step by step to up to 100 percent organic products". And that’s what it says in the "Action Plan 2025," which the then still red-green state government adopted in 2018. However, opinions differ widely on the question of what exactly is important when it comes to organic food.
On the one hand, there are those who are strictly against "the use of pre-processed products from the food industry," against organic goods that are traded "worldwide and regardless of the season," and against agro-industrial conglomerates that now also sell food with organic labels. This is the position of 25 regional organic farms, which have now written an open letter to environmental senator Maike Schaefer (Greens). They are led, among others, by the former Lower Saxony state chairwoman of the Federation of German Dairy Farmers, Johanna Bose-Hartje from Thedinghausen.
On the other hand, there is the Environment Ministry, which is responsible for implementing the "Action Plan 2025". There one is also in favor of putting more organic products on the table in community kitchens. "They should come from the region, be seasonal and fresh," says Maike Schaefer in response to her critics.
In other words, this goal is not quite as high a priority. But there is another goal that Schaefer repeatedly points out: the changeover must be "neutral in terms of expenditure," because the Senate also decided on this at the time. In 2017, the model project "More Organic in Bremen Daycare Centers" in three municipal daycare centers in Bremen came to the conclusion that a conversion to organic food could be implemented with cost increases of ten to 15 percent.
Controversial training for cooks
The current dispute is caused by a project called "Training Kitchen", for which 1.7 million euros are being spent. It is intended to teach cooks in community kitchens how to cook cost-effectively with regional, seasonal and minimally processed organic foods without throwing away a lot of food in the end.
The concept for this – it costs Bremen 100,000 euros – is now being written by a consulting subsidiary of Chefs Culinar, following a controversial decision by the environmental department to award the contract: This is an international company from Kiel, which also cooperates with such controversial large corporations as Tonnies, Nestle and Unilever. Jan Saffe, spokesman for the Green Party’s parliamentary group on food and agriculture and champion of the nationwide cheap meat brake in Bremen, was "appalled" and so were the signatories of the open letter.
Local organic companies want nothing to do with "bag soup corporations"
From the point of view of the critics Bremen makes itself thereby to the Steigbugelhalter of questionable global players: ?I rather have no bio city, than one, which gives Bremen money to bag soup companies and then still hypocritically in such a way pretends, as if one had no other choice had ?
The environmental department finds praising words for Chefs Culinar, which had prevailed in the assignment procedure against twelve other enterprises and organizations, which had been inquired by the authority: The Kiel-based company had an "excellent understanding" of the project’s goals, Schaefer writes, and demonstrated "all the required competencies." Schaefer dismisses the criticism of the awarding of the contract as "irritations"; she does not go into further detail on the fundamental criticism of the letter writers of "bag soup corporations".
There is to be a meeting with Chefs Culinar next week – but it is unclear who will take part. At least parts of the organic industry, one hears, want to boycott it – Pigors, for example, categorically ruled out cooperation with the Kielers. Peter Bargfrede of the Alliance for Agricultural Policy (ABB) also says there is "little point" in going if the organic sector does not come too. The ABB recently signed a compromise paper with the authority’s top management and wants to "keep the connection to the authority," as Bragfrede says.
The ABB, whose members include the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Bauerliche Landwirtschaft (Working Group for Rural Agriculture) and the BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany), and the organic industry emphasize that they would like to present a unified front. But even Bargfrede does not want to talk to Chefs Culinar, but at most to Rainer Roehl. He has recently started working as a consultant for Chefs and is considered a proven expert on the conversion to organic food. In his new role, however, he is viewed with suspicion in the organic sector. Meanwhile, the authority is very pleased and satisfied to have won him as a speaker.