Since 2006, Munich has prided itself on being an “organic city”. At that time, the city council launched a project of the same name, which has now been joined by 27 municipalities nationwide. The ÖDP politician Nicola Holtmann, who has been a member of the local parliament since 2020, has had a striking experience with this project: “We always make really great decisions in the city council, but then there are problems when it comes to implementation.” In any case, little concrete has come out of the Biostadt project so far, she thinks.
The Munich city council last dealt with the topic two years ago: On July 28, 2021, it decided on a quota for organic food in city facilities and its subsidiaries. In order to promote the intended change in diet, canteens and canteens of administrations, cultural institutions, schools, day-care centers, clinics and senior citizens’ facilities must currently obtain 60 percent of their food from organic farming, preferably from regional producers. Or rather: you would have to. It is not controlled.
The parliamentary group of the ÖDP and Munich List has therefore put together a three-part package of applications so that the decision does not just remain a well-intentioned declaration of intent. In the first application, Holtmann and Co. call on the city administration to separate tenders for food according to organic food and conventional food and to award them independently of each other, in separate lots, as they are called in technical jargon. In the second application, they suggest that compliance with the quota should be checked at least in bullet points. Finally, the third is about developing a cross-departmental, uniform tendering procedure.
The applications go back to talks between the ÖDP city councilors and those involved in the organic sector, including Hermann Oswald, the managing director of the grocer Epos Bio-Partner from Kirchheim. In a letter to the mayor of the Green Party, Katrin Habenschaden, and the city council parties, Oswald pointed out weaknesses in the system. He expressly wants his impulse to be “understood as constructive criticism”.
Oswald complains that “mixed lots are being advertised”, meaning that organic food is being lumped together with conventional food products. “If you have to offer everything, the organic retailer is out of business,” explains Oswald: “As an organic retailer, you don’t buy any conventional food.”
Conversely, conventional wholesalers would have no problem acquiring organic items for their range. In principle, Oswald has no problem with this either: his company not only supplies municipal facilities directly, but also conventional caterers or dealers who have been awarded a contract. But one would have to check whether they really offer regional products to the required extent, Oswald thinks. In this regard, he wonders about the city: “There is no evidence tool to measure the rate.”
The advantage of separate lots is obvious, the ÖDP/Munich list justifies its application: They enable a simplified overview of compliance with the organic quota. According to Nicola Holtmann, the current tendering procedure “disadvantages smaller and regional providers and dealers”. Oswald thinks “it thwarts the good intentions”. The politician and the businessman agree that if more competitors were to have easier access to the Munich market, this would also lead to lower prices when shopping.
No answer to a simple question for five months
Oswald would also like a uniform tendering procedure, as requested by the ÖDP in its third application. He has identified a “certain bureaucratic jungle” that is “not always easy for outsiders to see through”. Even insiders find it difficult, Holtmann concedes: “We don’t know exactly who is responsible.”
Basically, the topic of Biostadt is anchored in the Department for Climate and Environmental Protection (RKU), but the Department for Education and Schools (RBS) is responsible for supplying daycare centers and schools, and sometimes other departments come into play, for example at tasting in cultural institutions. In January, the ÖDP asked the city administration in writing to break down the responsibilities. The answer is still pending.
At least Holtmann knows that there were tenders that did not take into account the required proportion of organic food at all, for example at the Volkstheater or at the HP8 cultural center. “A zero organic quota on the menu – how can that be?” asks Herrmann Oswald. In the ÖDP parliamentary group one speaks of “technical errors”. The turnaround in nutrition is a “quite complex issue,” Nicola Holtmann learned in her work on the city council: “You have to turn a lot of screws to change something.”