Environmentalist Freia Jung-Klein

“I remain true to my convictions”

Instead of doing research in academia or for large corporations, the agricultural scientist with a doctorate and TUM Alumna Freia Jung-Klein enters politics. Her faith and meditation provide her with the necessary strength to unwaveringly fight for the environment.

As a pupil Freia Jung-Klein already pestered her father, a farmer, with questions on soil fertility and alternative value added products. Her dad, initially puzzled, follows his 17-year-old daughter’s suggestions and uses his own farm’s manure instead of expensively bought mineral fertiliser, reduces his dairy livestock and opts for a meadow orchard instead of selling the land at a profit. “In no time my ideas had turned the farm inside out”, Freia Jung-Klein says today. For her A-Levels Freia Jung-Klein is doing a final project on mineral constituents of the soil in her home-village.

Doctorate at TUM

It is so professional and well-grounded that Freia Jung-Klein wants to “understand it better herself first” and thus decides to study Agricultural Sciences at TUM in Weihenstephan. In 1984 she graduates with a diploma degree from the Department of Plant Production with a thesis on the detection of herbicides in soils and waters and manages to develop the topic, which she is ‘totally hooked on’, into a dissertation at the Chair of Botany.

With her ecotoxicological findings Jung-Klein had entered previously unchartered territory in agricultural research and thus gained a postdoc position at the renowned University of California. There, manufacturer Monsanto’s ears are deaf to her scientific studies on glyphosate, which were already alarming back then. “Unfortunately Monsanto has not taken any appropriate action whatsoever in response to my findings, which means my entire scientific work was in vain.”

I have grown spiritually and in my humanity, instead of professionally.

Freia Jung-Klein decides that corporate work is out of the question for her: “I wanted to stay true to myself.” Instead of pursuing a career in academia or in the private business sector working for BASF, by all means both options open to the ambitious agricultural scientist, she decides to have children and lays down the foundation for her continued work as an environmental educationalist.

Like David and Goliath

By sheer chance environmentalist Freia Jung-Klein gets voted into the district council in the role of parliamentary party leader right after the Green Party wins her over in 2009. Even though she can let her visions fly here, making them reality is far from easy. “What I had to learn in the industry at Monsanto, I experienced now first hand working as a politician in the Palatinate region: you are fighting an all-powerful opponent and all the lobbying prevents you from achieving anything really. Sometimes it felt like David and Goliath.”

Studying at TUM has also equipped Freia Jung-Klein with perseverance and tenacity. “TUM has deeply shaped me; endurance, persistence and self-confidence.” Even if the entire district council collectively leaves the conference room, her word stands against the county commissioner’s and dozens of lawyer’s letters with injunctions pile up on her desk, the local politician of the Greens refuses to be silenced or to stop asking uncomfortable questions. “If I didn’t probe, many things would not come to light. It’s just how I am.”

But despite all her willpower and belief in the good cause she has to admit that her relentless commitment to protecting the environment, nature and the climate takes a lot of strength, in particular emotionally. What helps her here is her strong  faith, her conviction that the creation has to be preserved. Unswervingly the Palatinate native enthusiastically sets out day after day to pitch environmental protection to the people.