3 questions for …

3 questions for …

Benedikt Bösel Agrarian economist, founder and managing director of Gut und Bösel

Benedikt Bösel, founder and managing director of Gut und Bösel

“The only reliable insurance for the future is healthy soil and a healthy, intact ecosystem.”

1. Your name comes up a lot when people talk about regenerative agriculture in Germany. You’ve been researching and working in and with this topic for about five years now. What has changed so far, and are we still on the right track?

Back when I was starting out, really nobody quite understood the whole picture. Not the universities, or the operators, or the research institutes. In those days, they’d say, well, trees in your cropland, and plants and animals on top of that – what’s supposed to be so innovative about that? But I’m absolutely certain this was the right way. Because the only reliable insurance for the future is healthy soil and a healthy, intact ecosystem. So back then, I sold my car and sold stock, started planting trees and buying cows – in the hope that people would understand what we were doing.

It took a good while before people started getting the feeling that agriculture too has a major role among the great crises of our day. And if you really think it through, it quickly becomes clear that we can’t just look at yield per unit of land area per year, we need to think about the whole impact of our use. And that we simply can’t afford to ignore the ecological and social oncosts of production. Diversification and adaptability are important for responding to climate change and thus also for becoming economically secure and more independent.

2. Do you think the concept of a regenerative economy or regenerative agriculture can be extended to the whole food industry? What more would that need?

I think we have no choice but to transform the whole value chain like that. It has to be a goal for all of us, for every form of business, for every product, for every service. Everything we do as an individual or a society always has to be embedded in the ecosystem in such a way that it can generate value. Value in terms of the ecosystem, of society, and basically everything that safeguards the foundation of our lives. Just one example: if a company only compensates for carbon dioxide emissions and can call itself climate-neutral on that basis, and yet still causes a great deal of harm to biodiversity, then obviously that’s not enough! We have to compensate for the whole impact of our own output within the economic and social context, if not actually improve on it. But to do that we need to look beyond agriculture – to education, to science, to technological development, access to land, the question of how the capital market can take part in the transformation, and of course right at the head of the list, the political choices we make, which can have a big influence. True cost accounting can be an important lever here.

3. To get very specific: What opportunities does regenerative agriculture offer for the organic sector?

Basically, the principles of organic agriculture are very, very similar to those of regenerative agriculture. As I see it, regenerative agriculture is trying to think even more holistically about ecosystems. But there’s still no real definition for that.

It has advantages because farmers from every system can think and talk  about areas of potential and about methods, and apply them. Anybody who’s seriously pursuing regenerative agriculture will also start farming organically in the long run. But of course there are also drawbacks, because anyone can also use the concept – and exploit it – without really doing anything with it. If I just start using a new word for the same thing I’ve always done, obviously that also involves a big danger. Most importantly, it could also cause a great loss of trust among consumers.

But I can also imagine that a lot of consumers who haven’t really paid much attention to organic food yet, or even have a negative attitude about it, could pick up some enthusiasm by way of a more self-explanatory term like “regenerative”, and could ultimately decide in favour of the organic products that represents.

What’s at stake is food, life, animals, people. And that means things are always going to get emotional. I hope that in the future we’ll talk less about ideology, definitions, and trenches, and instead more about content, and look for where we have areas in common and how we can support each other.


Annette Bachert

Annette Bachert

Senior PR-consultant | modem conclusa gmbh