Thilo Bode

Year founded: 


Foodwatch is an independent non-profit organization fighting to strengthen consumers' rights in Germany.

Focus: Food Industry, Food Law, Consumer Awareness
Geographic Area of Impact: Germany, France
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Annual Budget: US$ 2.0 million (2011)
Percentage Earned Revenues: 100%
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, Germany, 2009

The food market in Europe is one-sided, focused on the interests of producers not consumers, and frequently marked by price competition rather than quality competition. The stated objectives of European food laws are to protect consumers' health and prevent deceptive and misleading advertising, yet these are often not fulfilled in practice. Poor enforcement is also a problem, demonstrated not only by the food scandals that often arise, but also by statistics of official food controls. Politicians have addressed this topic only marginally, and due to a lack of chartered rights of information and action, it is virtually impossible for individual consumers to improve the situation.

Innovation and Activities
Foodwatch works to strengthen consumers' rights in the food market through various activities and services. Through independent research and analysis it informs the public about lack of safety and transparency of food products and names the parties responsible. It also mobilizes consumers through petitions, protests and lobbying efforts to encourage political decision-makers to take action. Foodwatch takes offenders to court on behalf of consumers, proposes changes in the law in areas often ignored, and exerts pressure to influence policy changes.

In 2007 foodwatch campaigned to stop the illegal trade of meat and bone meal, and called for applying the principles of EU waste legislation to animal by-products. In 2008 foodwatch commissioned the Institute for Ecological Economy Research to examine the respective contribution of conventional and organic agriculture in Germany to the greenhouse effect. The results demonstrated that considerable amounts of greenhouse gases can be eliminated in the agricultural sector. Consequently, foodwatch is calling on the agriculture sector to become part of climate change policy in Germany and at the EU level. In 2011 foodwatch published the report “The Hungermakers” to show the negative impact of capital investments in food raw commodities on food prices and the nutritional situation of people.

To guarantee absolute independence, foodwatch declines government funding and is financed solely by contributions and donations. Funding from corporations is also refused, to avoid any conflict of interest that may arise or prevent its work from being influenced.

Each year, foodwatch awards the Golden Windbag Prize for the most audacious advertising lie in the food industry. The winner is chosen by visitors to its website.

The Entrepreneur
Thilo Bode studied sociology and economics, and wrote his PhD dissertation on direct investments in developing countries. He subsequently supervised water and energy supply projects in a number of developing countries, worked for the reconstruction credit institute KfW, and advised companies on their involvement in developing countries. In the mid-1980s he switched from development aid to business. He served as a management assistant in a medium-sized metals group, responsible for strategy, control and the supervision of subsidiaries. Bode is known for his work for Greenpeace and their campaigns in the 1990s. From 1989 to 1995 he was head of Greenpeace Germany, and then Greenpeace International from 1995 to 2001.