When she was growing up in the northwest German city of Recklinghausen in the 1960s, Renate Kunast never imagined she would one day join the government. Young German women didn't aspire to reach the pinnacles of power back then. "We had no role models," Kunast says.
Today, there's no doubt that Kunast is one herself. After only five months in office, the 45-year-old Green party member has used the low-profile job of Agriculture Minister to become one of the nation's most popular politicians. In one recent poll, the former lawyer and drug counselor ranked behind only Chancellor Gerhard Schroder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.
Kunast's brainstorm has been to add "consumer protection" and "nutrition" to the responsibilities of the agriculture ministry. She has already moved to improve food labeling and wants to shift subsidies to organic farms. "We want food to taste good again," she declares. That stance is almost revolutionary in Germany, which has never had a strong consumer movement. But that's what being a role model is all about.