In the face of global warming and environmental degradation challenges we face, food is a significant part of the problem and, yes, generally we consume too much meat. But, might I suggest that the challenge goes wider than a simple change in diet?
There is no doubt that we have a broken food system. Some of the key issues include:
Population rise by 2050 Global up 2 billion, UK up 10+ million
Ever rising fossil fuel and water intensity of food production.
Global 40% all grain fed to animals. A large percentage of antibiotics fed to animals.
Global last 100 years 1 billion acres of farm land abandoned due to degradation/desertification.
Global 35% ecosystems lost and remainder degraded
UK ast 50 years Soil Organic Carbon 50 70 % loss in arable land
UK Farmland Huge Biodiversity loss 50% birds. 75% loss of insects/pollinators last 27 years.
UK 40% Food wasted
Nutrients Trace Elements decline in most foods.
Health UK Food related diseases Obesity, Type 2 diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease all increasing.
Over consumption - UK 62% obese/overweight nbsp; average 2500 cals/day/person
UK only 61 % self sufficient in food production and declining
Cheap Food, Commodity, Agribusiness/Supermarkets, Social equity - Farm incomes
Myth of Efficiency & Productivity. Defra ustainable Intensification/p>
Government Policy or lack of it (Problem? mportglobal market will supply)
Furthermore the IPCC/COP24 and the associated Special Report 15 identified that for the last 20 years the true magnitude of climate change had been under reported. The generally accepted 2C increase in global temperatures is now recognised as too high; we must now aim for the lower 1.5C target if we are to be in with a chance of avoiding catastrophic Global Warming.
To deliver on this aspiration requires in essence that we must halve our fossil fuel consumption is by 2030 and be at zero by 2050. Furthermore we need to reinstate our ecosystems and also draw down 30% of the carbon from the atmosphere. And continue to feed the population. A tall order?
So the question becomes which of the food production systems offers the lowest intensity of fossil fuel use, reinstates ecosystems, rebuilds soil fertility, and also sequestrates carbon, and still produces healthy nutritious food?
Is changing to a vegan diet the solution?
Intensive arable production has required the continued increasing consumption of fossil fuels for fertilizer production, pesticides, machinery, transportation processing, refrigeration, packaging, retail and someone. At the global level the massive deforestation and loss of grasslands has been required for the production Palm oil, soya/pulses, and grain. Around 40% of this is then used as feed for intensive livestock productionlargely chickens and pigs white meat! Clearly grainfed meat production has to be nonsense.
So what about cattle and sheep?
The clearance of Amazonian rainforest is in part for cattle grazing.
In the UK around 60% of agricultural land is grassland. hill sides, uplands that are unsuitable for arable production. Utilising these areas for food production by well managed grazing makes good sense.
Agriculture has a huge role to play in reinstating soils and ecosystems. Agroecology, regenerative farming in essence focus on the importance building the soil ecosystem along with its fertility. It is about feeding the soil rather than feeding the plant with synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. Through photosynthesis carbon is sequestrated from the atmosphere to the soils to rebuild organic matter. Higher soil organic matters increases the ability to hold water and therefore mitigate flooding and drought. The re-establishment of mixed farming practices that include livestock are an important aspect of regenerative farming, So rather than being part of the problem, livestock are actually part of the solution.
So what can I do as a concerned citizen and responsible consumer to address the above issues?
When purchasing or specifying for the procurement of food buy:
Fresh reduces the requirement for refrigeration, transportation, processing, preservatives and packaging.
Local reduces transport, increases accountability for landscape and pollution impacts, increases the opportunity for closing the carbon cycle.
Seasonal fossil fuel reduction for out of season forced growing.
rganic- non-use of synthetic Fertilisers and Pesticidesreduction in fossil fuel intensive fertilizer production (particularly nitrates), pesticides, reduced antibiotics
Beef, lamb, dairy, meat etcrain free and pasture fed.
The benefits to our personal health, NHS budget, flood defence costs, food resilience, balance of payments all go without saying!
Please note: the views expressed in this blog are those of theindividual contributing member, and are not necessarily representative of theviews of IEMA or any professional institutions with which IEMA is associated
Posted on 21st October 2019
Written by Dave Stanley
Baroness Young discusses environmental targets and governance with IEMA
- 26th January 2023
Have your say on the future purpose of IEMA
- 19th January 2023
Defra publishes plans to ban commonly littered single-use plastic items in England
- 16th January 2023
IEMA’s thoughts on the net zero transition following the publication of the Skidmore Review
- 13th January 2023
IEMA reacts to Environmental Audit Committee report on energy security
- 5th January 2023
COP 15 ends with a new set of biodiversity targets and a positive way forward
- 20th December 2022