EBBC - Food Industry

Food Industry

The food industry currently faces a multitude of challenges: a growing population needs to be fed, including a rising demand for resource intensive dairy foods and meat products, while impacts of climate change and nature degradation intensify production risks. Biodiversity and ecosystem services concepts offer a holistic and integrative approach to develop solutions to these challenges.


The food industry’s supply chain highly depends on regulating services like water supply, climate and pollination. Therefore, if such regulating services fail, the supply chain can be affected until the point of collapse. The magnitude may be illustrated by the following facts:

  • About 85 % of the global arable land is threatened by erosion, salinization, soil compaction, nutrient depletion or pollution. Every year, 10 million hectares of agricultural land are lost to desertification - roughly equivalent to the land area of Iceland.
  • The annual cost of global soil erosion is estimated at EUR 300 billion - more than EUR 40 per capita of the world's population.
  • More than 75 % of the world's important food crops rely to some degree on animal pollination. In 2016, the UN World Biodiversity Council IPBES estimated the annual market value of animal pollination at USD 235 - 577 billion. A more recent study by the University of Hohenheim from 2020 even assumes 1 trillion USD; in Germany alone, bees, butterflies and co. would generate a value of 3.8 billion EUR every year.

By species extinction the genetic pool and therefore the possibility of investigating specific genetic  features, e. g. heat or coldness adaption, is limited.  Since such qualities could be important for the development of cultivars or products, they are also called ‘values of an option’.

  • According to the IBV, of the total of around 6,000 crop species worldwide, only about 25 are currently cultivated for food production in Germany. Wheat, barley, corn, rapeseed and rye grow on 75 % of Germany's total arable land. According to the FAO, more than 90 % of crop varieties have become extinct in Europe since 1900.

In the digital age, news goes viral particularly quickly via social media and reaches many potential customers. The media are looking for scandals and are increasingly reporting critically, e. g. on the clearing of the rainforest for palm oil and soy plantations, which destroy the habitats of countless animal and plant species. The Fridays for Future movement, active since 2019, is also contributing to public criticism of biodiversity loss through agriculture. This has greatly increased the risk of loss of reputation and image for companies in the food industry.


The chances of a more holistic agricultural production are diverse. Some examples are shown down below:

  • The opening of new markets or customers by organic production
  • The organic food and beverage market is estimated to grow at an average annual rate of 14.5-16.5 % in the coming years. The global market could reach a volume of USD 380.84 billion in 2025. In 2021, the figure was USD 221.37 billion. (Organic Food Global Market Report 2021)
  • According to a survey conducted by the German Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMEL), 47 % of German consumers estimate that they will buy organic food frequently or even exclusively in the future. Currently, only 38 % of them mainly buy organic products.

Avoidance or energy and substantial efficient reuse of food waste offers cost reduction as well as a rising business reputation, including direct soil protection: According to the WWF, halving avoidable food losses could save 1.3 million hectares of agricultural land in Germany - almost the size of Montenegro.

The Initiative "Biodiversity in Standards and Labels for the Food Sector" aims at increasing biodiversity within the agricultural production.

Learn more about the inititative





United Nations General Assembly (2017) Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food

Global Platform on Business and Biodiversity Sector: Agricultural Biodiversity

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO): Agroecology Knowledge Hub

The Comission to the European Parliament and the Council: Report on the implementation of the ecological focus area obligation under the green direct payment scheme