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Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag Office of Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag

23.06.2021 | Publication

Paving the way to a sustainability assessment of farming systems

For years there is an ongoing broad and controversial debate in Germany and other countries about which forms of farming best match a sustainable agriculture and how progress towards an ecological, social and economic sustainability can be achieved. The policy brief TAB-Fokus no. 27 regarding TAB-Arbeitsbericht Nr. 188 summarizes the possibilities of a comparative sustainability assessment of farming systems in order to generate more differentiated information on sustainability of farming systems.

The first part of the working report deals with the development of agricultural structure in Germany and the effects of their structural change on the sustainability of agriculture. Overall, the relationship between structural change in agriculture on the one hand and economic, social and ecological sustainability on the other presents a mixed picture.

In the second part, the available and used approaches for the sustainability assessment of individual farms, selected value chains or products (e.g. palm oil, soy) as well as the entire agricultural sector are presented. Sustainability assessments for aggregation levels between the individual farm and the entire agricultural sector, on the other hand, have hardly been carried out to date.

In order to arrive at approaches for a sustainability assessment of farming systems as an orientation framework for an economically viable, socially and environmentally compatible design of future agricultural and environmental policy, the third part reviews the current state of knowledge on the comparison of conventional and organic agriculture with regard to their sustainability impacts and identifies any remaining gaps and methodological weaknesses. The need for action necessary for the (further) development of a sustainability assessment of farming systems is identified.

The policy brief TAB-Fokus no. 27 PDF [2,59 MB] – as well as the full project report published as TAB-Arbeitsbericht Nr. 188 PDF [7,11 MB] (only in German) are available online.