The Danish Ministry of Food has released the long-awaited national action plan for plant-based foods, which is part of the political agricultural agreement from 2021. The plan was presented at an event on friday the 13th of October.
The plan states, among other things, that the government wants to strengthen and promote the Danish plant-based sector as part of the necessary global shift towards more plant-based foods. The government’s vision is for Denmark’s production and consumption of plant-based foods to inspire the rest of the world.
The Vegetarian Society of Denmark, a key player in this field in Denmark, has along with other organizations worked towards the development of such a plan. Vegetarian Society commends the plan for focusing on the entire process “from farm to fork”.
“Denmark is the first country to develop an action plan specifically for plant-based foods. Therefore, the plan itself is internationally groundbreaking. It is also positive that there is focus on so many aspects—ranging from research, product development, and export of Danish products to the training of kitchen professionals. We have received a lot of inquiries from NGOs, politicians, and businesses abroad, all who have been just as eagerly awaiting the action plan as we have,” says Rune-Christoffer Dragsdahl, the Secretary General of the Vegetarian Society of Denmark.
For example, the plan mentions the upgrading of personnel in public and private kitchens, as well as a greater focus on plant-based diets in primary schools and higher education, as areas for intervention. This is something the Vegetarian Society of Denmark has long pointed out as necessary if the plan to make Denmark a plant-based pioneer is to succeed.
However, there is room for a wide range of improvements if politicians’ ambitions are to be fulfilled. For instance, policies for public kitchens are missing, as is a review of all relevant education programs, and most importantly, funding on a much larger scale. The Plant Fund, which closed its first application round for a fund of DKK 58 million in the fall, was massively oversubscribed. This suggests that the plant-based sector is still severely underfunded in relation to the need. Recommendations from experts at several of the country’s universities also indicate that at least six times the amount should be invested—recommended at DKK 600 million annually—in a targeted effort for plant-based foods in Denmark alone.
“Both we and many other dedicated forces in the plant-based sector are determined to make the mission succeed, but it requires investments throughout the entire value chain. In this regard, the funds do not at all align with the ambitions,” says Rune-Christoffer Dragsdahl, also pointing out that the political plan lacks specific objectives and criteria for success in all parts of the plan.
“If Denmark’s constructive path is to be a credible alternative to for example the approach taken by the Netherlands, which resulted in large demonstrations in the country, there is a need for setting achievable goals instead of just ambitions. There are a lot of beautiful visions in the action plan, but it is unclear what objectives are to be achieved and how to get there. We hope that the politicians will listen to our expertise and we are more than willing to offer our help and advice in this field to ensure that this succeeds,” says Rune-Christoffer Dragsdahl.
Acacia Smith, senior policy manager at the nonprofit Good Food Institute Europe, which works to advance plant-based foods, said:
“Denmark has set an important precedent by becoming the first country to publish an action plan showing how its citizens and economy can transition towards more sustainable plant-based foods. Europe is the world’s biggest market for plant-based meat, and to take advantage of this growing industry – as well as to boost food security and create future-proof green jobs – other national governments across the continent should follow the Danish lead.”