Agriculture Emissions Stay the Same

https://www.desmog.uk/2017/08/23/lack-progress-agricultural-emission-reductions-shows-need-green-brexit

[Extract from a lightly longer article; go to above link for full version].

The UK has failed to make any cuts to emissions from agriculture. Again.

New government statistics released 22 August show UK farming emitted 49.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2015, the exact same amount as a year before and remaining at about the same level since 2008.Overall, agriculture accounted for about 10 percent of the UK’s greenhouse gas

While the sector only contributed one percent of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions, it was responsible for 53 percent of the UK’s methane emissions. Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and – pound for pound – can trap much more heat in the atmosphere over the course of a couple of decades.

Agricultural emissions come from a variety of sources. The production of animal feed is the main driver, while generating power to keep the industry going also creates a lot of emissions. Livestock such as cows, sheep and pigs also emit a lot of methane.

A recent study suggested converting land for farming has led to the release of 133 billion tons of carbon dioxide globally over the last 12,000 years. That’s the equivalent of 13 years of global emissions from all sectors at their current levels, the Washington Post pointed out.

Since 2008, the UK has failed to cut its agricultural emissions, with reductions stalling at about 17 percent below 1990 levels. There is no specific climate target for the agriculture sector, instead the industry is captured under the UK Climate Change Act’s general 80 percent greenhouse gas emissions reduction target, from 1990 levels, by 2050.    continues…

An Environmentally Sound UK and US-Produced Meat?

Two items of current focus in Brexit news this week have been environmental standards and trade talks.

Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and Secretary of State for International Trade Liam Fox, appear to have differing goals where these two suggested policies meet.

Michael Gove

Post-Brexit, Gove is talking of a ‘gold standard’ for the environment and for farming in the UK, whilst Fox has been in America getting-up close and cosy discussing a possible post-Brexit trade deal, which would very likely have to include meat US, produced to both lower husbandry and processing standards, being imported into this country.  Read here, industrial-scale animal production with far fewer animals enjoying life outside grazing on grass (at least during the summers) and gobbling-up vast amounts of cereal and soya.  Widespread use of growth hormones, antibiotics in feeds and lower cleanliness in poultry slaughter relying on a final clean-up with heavily-chlorinated water.  The emphasis here should be about how the meat is produced not about whether the meat id healthy to eat or not.

Liam Fox

The UK can’t have post-Brexit both Gove’s ‘gold standard’ environmental standards and Fox’s imported meat produced by cheaper, lower welfare standards.  This ‘cheapness’ – with animals paying the difference with their lower standards of well-being, would make both the profitability of UK farmers even harder to achieve and it would also allow meat produced by these morally lower methods into the UK’s food chain.

 

Shocking Slaughter of American Horses

Came across this shocking story today which to put in a nutshell, is a government department being unconstitutional and rounding-up and probably leading to slaughtering of thousands of wild horses, just so that greedy ranchers get more grazing!

https://americanwildhorsecampaign.org/media/house-appropriations-committee-issues-death-warrant-92000-american-wild-horses

Bill Will Send Them to Slaughter Against the Will of the American People.

Washington, DC (July 18, 2017).  Today the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee stripped language from the Department of Interior’s 2018 budged that federally prohibits the slaughter of America’s federally protected wild horse and burro herds.

The amendment, put forth by by Republican Chris Stewart (R-UT) and passed by a voice vote, allows for the destruction of healthy wild horses and burros that Interior Department bureaucrats deem to be surplus. The removal of the protections would result in wild herds across the West being slaughtered on a mass scale. Captured wild horses and burros in government holding facilities would also be subject to being killed en masse.

Suzanne Roy, executive director of The American Wild Horse Campaign, the nation’s leading wild horse advocacy organization, issued a strong statement condemning the Committee’s vote.

“Let’s be clear: House Appropriations Committee members just signed a death warrant for America’s mustangs and it will lead to the wholesale destruction of these irreplaceable national treasures,” Ms. Roy said. “The Stewart amendment is a slaughter amendment, and its proponents are trying to hide that fact from the American people.”

“We will hold these Members of Congress to account for this public deception and unacceptable assault on our wild mustangs,” Ms. Roy said.

Recent public opinion polls and previous polls consistently show that 80% of Americans support protecting wild horses and burros from slaughter, and the vast majority support the use of humane birth control rather than slaughter to manage our nation’s wild horse herds.

The bill now moves onto the full House for a vote. The Senate is expected to take up the issue after the August recess.

 

About the American Wild Horse Campaign

The American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC) (formerly known as the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign) is dedicated to preserving the American wild horse in viable, free-roaming herds for generations to come, as part of our national heritage. Its grassroots mission is endorsed by a coalition of more than 60 horse advocacy, humane and public interest organizations.

Soil Erosion

The following article reflects concerns I have had for decades – the loss of soils by un-enlightened farming practices.  Admittedly, some of the best – Walton’s at Alciston and Ellis’s of Litlington are making an effort now with methods involving no ploughing.  In the 1980’s, I can recall soil, flint, seed corn, being washed for over a mile on the Downs!

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/25/treating-soil-like-dirt-fatal-mistake-human-life

We’re treating soil like dirt. It’s a fatal mistake, as our lives depend on it.

George Monbiot, Wednesday 25 March 2015.

Imagine a wonderful world, a planet on which there was no threat of climate breakdown, no loss of freshwater, no antibiotic resistance, no obesity crisis, no terrorism, no war. Surely, then, we would be out of major danger? Sorry. Even if everything else were miraculously fixed, we’re finished if we don’t address an issue considered so marginal and irrelevant that you can go for months without seeing it in a newspaper.

It’s literally and – it seems – metaphorically, beneath us. To judge by its absence from the media, most journalists consider it unworthy of consideration. But all human life depends on it. We knew this long ago, but somehow it has been forgotten. As a Sanskrit text written in about 1500BC noted: “Upon this handful of soil our survival depends. Husband it and it will grow our food, our fuel and our shelter and surround us with beauty. Abuse it and the soil will collapse and die, taking humanity with it.”

The issue hasn’t changed, but we have. Landowners around the world are now engaged in an orgy of soil destruction so intense that, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, the world on average has just 60 more years of growing crops. Even in Britain, which is spared the tropical downpours that so quickly strip exposed soil from the land, Farmers Weekly reports, we have “only 100 harvests left”.

Landowners around the world are now engaged in an orgy of soil destruction.

To keep up with global food demand, the UN estimates, 6m hectares (14.8m acres) of new farmland will be needed every year. Instead, 12m hectares a year are lost through soil degradation. We wreck it, then move on, trashing rainforests and other precious habitats as we go. Soil is an almost magical substance, a living system that transforms the materials it encounters, making them available to plants. That handful the Vedic master showed his disciples contains more micro-organisms than all the people who have ever lived on Earth. Yet we treat it like, well, dirt.

The techniques that were supposed to feed the world threaten us with starvation. A paper just published in the journal Anthropocene analyses the undisturbed sediments in an 11th-century French lake. It reveals that the intensification of farming over the past century has increased the rate of soil erosion sixtyfold.

Another paper, by researchers in the UK, shows that soil in allotments – the small patches in towns and cities that people cultivate by hand – contains a third more organic carbon than agricultural soil and 25% more nitrogen. This is one of the reasons why allotment holders produce between four and 11 times more food per hectare than do farmers.

Whenever I mention this issue, people ask: “But surely farmers have an interest in looking after their soil?” They do, and there are many excellent cultivators who seek to keep their soil on the land. There are also some terrible farmers, often absentees, who allow contractors to rip their fields to shreds for the sake of a quick profit. Even the good ones are hampered by an economic and political system that could scarcely be better designed to frustrate them.

Why are organic farmers across Britain giving up?

This [2015] is the International Year of Soils, but you wouldn’t know it. In January, the Westminster government published a new set of soil standards, marginally better than those they replaced, but wholly unmatched to the scale of the problem. There are no penalities for compromising our survival except a partial withholding of public subsidies. Yet even this pathetic guidance is considered intolerable by the National Farmers’ Union, which greeted them with bitter complaints. Sometimes the NFU seems to me to exist to champion bad practice and block any possibility of positive change.

Few sights are as gruesome as the glee with which the NFU celebrated the death last year of the European soil framework directive, the only measure with the potential to arrest our soil-erosion crisis. The NFU, supported by successive British governments, fought for eight years to destroy it, then crowed like a shedful of cockerels when it won. Looking back on this episode, we will see it as a parable of our times.

Soon after that, the [then] business minister, Matthew Hancock, announced that he was putting “business in charge of driving reform”: trade associations would be able “to review enforcement of regulation in their sectors.” The NFU was one the first two bodies granted this privilege. Hancock explained that this “is all part of our unambiguously pro-business agenda to increase the financial security of the British people.” But it doesn’t increase our security, financial or otherwise. It undermines it.

The government’s deregulation bill, which has now almost completed its passage through parliament, will force regulators – including those charged with protecting the fabric of the land – to “have regard to the desirability of promoting economic growth”. But short-term growth at the expense of public protection compromises long-term survival. This “unambiguously pro-business agenda” is deregulating us to death.

There’s no longer even an appetite for studying the problem. Just one university – Aberdeen – now offers a degree in soil science. All the rest have been closed down.

This is what topples civilisations. War and pestilence might kill large numbers of people, but in most cases the population recovers. But lose the soil and everything goes with it.  Now, globalisation ensures that this disaster is reproduced everywhere. In its early stages, globalisation enhances resilience: people are no longer dependent on the vagaries of local production. But as it proceeds, spreading the same destructive processes to all corners of the Earth, it undermines resilience, as it threatens to bring down systems everywhere.

 

Short-term growth at the expense of public protection compromises long-term survival

Almost all other issues are superficial by comparison. What appear to be great crises are slight and evanescent when held up against the steady trickling away of our subsistence.  The avoidance of this issue is perhaps the greatest social silence of all. Our insulation from the forces of nature has encouraged a belief in the dematerialisation of our lives, as if we no longer subsist on food and water, but on bits and bytes. This is a belief that can be entertained only by people who have never experienced serious hardship, and who are therefore unaware of the contingency of existence.

It’s not as if we are short of solutions. While it now seems that ploughing of any kind is incompatible with the protection of the soil, there are plenty of means of farming without it. Independently, in several parts of the world, farmers have been experimenting with zero-tillage (also known as conservation agriculture), often with extraordinary results.

There are dozens of ways of doing it: we need never see bare soil again. But in the UK, as in most rich nations, we have scarcely begun to experiment with the technique, despite the best efforts of the magazine Practical Farm Ideas.

Even better are some of the methods that fall under the heading of permaculture – working with complex natural systems rather than seeking to simplify or replace them. Pioneers such as Sepp Holzer and Geoff Lawton have achieved remarkable yields of fruit and vegetables in places that seemed unfarmable: 1,100m above sea level in the Austrian alps, for example, or in the salt-shrivelled Jordanian desert.

But, though every year our government spends £450m on agricultural research and development – much of it on techniques that wreck our soils – there is no mention of permaculture either on the websites of the two main funding bodies (NERC and BBSRC) or in any other department.

The macho commitment to destructive short-termism appears to resist all evidence and all logic. Never mind life on Earth; we’ll plough on regardless.

  • A fully referenced version of this article can be found at Monbiot.com

Red Meat Triggers Toxic Immune Reaction Which Causes Cancer

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/11316316/Red-meat-triggers-toxic-immune-reaction-which-causes-cancer-scientists-find.html

Red meat triggers toxic immune reaction which causes cancer, scientists find.

By Sarah Knapton, Science Editor, 29 Dec 2014.

Red meat has been linked to cancer for decades, with research suggesting that eating large amounts of pork, beef or lamb raises the risk of deadly tumours.

But for the first time scientists think they know what is causing the effect. The body, it seems, views red meat as a foreign invader and sparks a toxic immune response.

Researchers have always been puzzled about how other mammals could eat a diet high in red meat without any adverse health consequences.  Now they have discovered that pork, beef and lamb contains a sugar which is naturally produced by other carnivores but not humans.

It means that when humans eat red meat, the body triggers an immune response to the foreign sugar, producing antibodies which spark inflammation, and eventually cancer.  In other carnivores the immune system does not kick in, because the sugar – called Neu5Gc – is already in the body.

Scientists at the University of California proved that mice which were genetically engineered so they did not produce Neu5Gc naturally developed tumours when they were fed the sugar.

“This is the first time we have directly shown that mimicking the exact situation in humans increases spontaneous cancers in mice,” said Dr Ajit Varki, Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of California.

“The final proof in humans will be much harder to come by.  This work may also help explain potential connections of red meat consumption to other diseases exacerbated by chronic inflammation, such as atherosclerosis and type 2 diabetes.”

“Of course, moderate amounts of red meat can be a source of good nutrition for young people. We hope that our work will eventually lead the way to practical solutions for this catch-22.”  Red meat is a good source of protein, vitamin and minerals, but an increasing body of research suggests too much is bad for long-term health.

Health experts recommend eating no more than 2.5oz (70g) a day, the equivalent of three slices of ham, one lamb chop or two slices of roast beef a day

A study published by Harvard University in June suggested that a diet high in red meat raised the risk of breast cancer for women by 22 per cent.  In 2005 a study found those who regularly ate 5.6oz (160g) of red meat a day had one third higher risk of bowel cancer.

The average person in the UK has 2.5oz (70g) meat a day 3oz (88g) among men, 2oz (52g) among women) but 33 per cent have more than 3.5oz (100g) a day.

Previous research has suggested that a pigment in red meat may also damage the DNA of cells lining the digestive system.

The new research was published online in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Brexit Could Herald End to British Fruit and Veg Production?

This is one of several articles I have just posted, all connected with the future of the countryside and farming following the UK decision over Brexit.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/aug/03/brexit-could-herald-end-to-british-fruit-and-veg-sales-producers-warn?CMP=share_btn_tw

Brexit could herald end to British fruit and veg sales, producers warn.

lettuce

Foreign workers harvesting lettuce in the Lincolnshire Fens. Photograph: Tim Scrivener/REX/Shutterstock

 

Damian Carrington, The Guardian, Wednesday 3 August 2016.

British fruit and vegetables would all but vanish from shops if Brexit means the foreign workers who pick virtually all the home-grown produce are no longer able to come to the UK, according to some of the country’s biggest producers.

They warn that the nation’s food security would be damaged and that produce in UK shops would become more expensive if the freedom of movement for EU workers came to an end. They are urging ministers to set up a new permit scheme for seasonal workers.

Without a scheme, they say production would move abroad, where many already have large operations, or would switch to cereals which are harvested by machines. The Brexit vote is already deterring foreign workers from coming to the UK, the producers report.

About 90% of British fruit, vegetables and salads are picked, graded and packed by 60,000 to 70,000 workers from overseas, mostly from eastern Europe. Many of these work in areas which voted very strongly to leave the EU: the largely agricultural borough of Boston in Lincolnshire had the highest vote for leaving the EU in the whole country, at 75%.

“If we don’t have freedom of movement and they don’t replace it with a permit scheme then the industry will just close down” in the UK, said John Shropshire, chairman of G’s, one of the nation’s biggest producers of salads and vegetables, which employs 2,500 seasonal workers and also has farms in Spain, Poland, the Czech Republic and Senegal. “No British person wants a seasonal job working in the fields. They want permanent jobs or jobs that are not quite as taxing physically.”

“The government has to make a decision: either we bring the people to the work or we take the work to the people,” he told the Guardian. “The government has to decide does it want [the UK] to produce food or not – that is their decision.”

Angus Davison, chairman at Haygrove, a major berry and cherry producer, employing 800 seasonal workers, said that without them their growing would be exported: “We would move it to the continent. We wouldn’t be able to operate here in the UK because we would not be able to harvest the crops.” Half of Haygrove’s production is already in Portugal and South Africa.

“Do you want all your fresh produce to come from foreign countries?” he asked. “There would be more risks around its security, we wouldn’t be as food secure as a nation.” Davison said his company had 15 workers a day applying to its offices in Romania and Bulgaria before the Brexit referendum, but this has dropped now to one or two: “We are genuinely concerned. People over there are feeling they are not wanted here.”

More than 98% of those coming to the UK through a previous Seasonal Agricultural Workers scheme returned home. It ran from 1948 to 2013, when Theresa May as home secretary scrapped it. Davison said: “Seasonal workers for harvesting crops are not migrants. They come here to do a job and they go away again.” Davison and other producers told the Guardian their existing seasonal staff had been very unsettled by the Brexit vote and that there was a moral duty for the government to clarify their future status.

The UK produces only half of the fresh produce it eats, but despite consumers wanting more British-grown fruit, vegetables and salad, the investment to increase the nation’s self-sufficiency is at risk if seasonal workers are not available, said Chris Mack, chairman at Fresca Group, another major producer whose businesses include five huge salad greenhouses at Thanet in Kent, where 64% of voters backed leaving the EU.

“We were hoping to build the sixth [greenhouse], but unless we have the people to go and pick the tomatoes, it’s difficult to see how we are going to do that,” he said. The introduction of the national living wage was already causing fruit and vegetable producers, who do not receive EU subsidies, to move to lower cost countries, Mack said: “If there is a further issue around the availability of labour, moving your fields overseas will be almost be the only option.”

Mack also said shoppers will be hit in the pocket if Brexit negotiations lead to no freedom of movement and no access to the single EU market: “There will be less access to fresh produce and prices will inevitably then go up.”

It is not just major producers who are concerned about the availability of seasonal workers. Erica Consterdine, from the University of Sussex’s Centre for Migration Research, said: “What is absolutely certain is that, without foreign labour, there are going to be massive labour market shortages. I’m not sure the government quite realises just how reliant these sectors are on EU labour.”

“It’s looking pretty bad in terms of the security of the food supply chain. It would be disastrous,” she said. “I can’t really see how the industry can survive in the long term without freedom of movement of workers, without reintroducing some kind of agricultural workers scheme. Economically, looking at the sector, it seems absolutely crazy not to.”

A government spokesperson said: “Nothing is changing overnight – freedom of movement remains in place while we are in the EU. The public clearly demanded control over immigration in the EU referendum and that is what we are going to deliver, but it will take some time. There will clearly be challenges to overcome in our negotiations to leave the EU, but Brexit means Brexit and we’re going to make a success of it.”

The National Farmers Union (NFU) is undertaking its largest ever consultation with its members after Brexit, with the issue of seasonal labour a key element. “There is a huge threat to an extremely important sector of British farming,” said Meurig Raymond, NFU president. “How often did we hear from the leave campaigners that we wanted to see more controlled immigration? The seasonal workers scheme was a controlled system.”

Attempts to recruit British workers for seasonal work have failed, farmers told the Guardian. Those willing to take temporary jobs opt for hospitality and other sectors, while others sent by unemployment offices rarely last a week, they said.

“I know one or two companies that have gone to very significant lengths to set up a supply of UK labour and it just hasn’t worked,” said Jack Ward, chief executive of the British Growers Association. “I think it is probably the outdoor nature of the work.” Consterdine said a pilot scheme from the Department of Work and Pensions had been “totally unsuccessful”.

The fresh produce industry is not the only farming sector warning of the risks of losing migrant workers. “If the central and eastern Europeans went back to their native countries then dairy farming would be in dire straits,” said Tim Brigstocke, policy director at the Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers.

Roger Kelsey, a former butcher and now chief executive of the National Federation of Meat & Food Traders, said the UK meat industry was heavily reliant on labour from overseas: “It would not survive without them. Go into any abattoir or meat processing factory in the east of England – or anywhere in the UK – and you will see Polish and Portuguese workers helping the slaughtermen and doing what are seen as the unpleasant jobs, such as evisceration.” Even the vets employed by the Food Standards Agency are overwhelmingly – 98% – from the from EU nations.

All these sectors supply the UK’s biggest manufacturing sector: food and drink. The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) says its 7,000 member businesses employ 130,000 people from eastern Europe – more than a quarter of entire workforce. “If we are to remain competitive, we need urgent reassurance for the EU nationals working in the UK food and drink manufacturing sector and continuing unhindered access to workers from the EU,” said Ian Wright, FDF director general recently.

John Hardman, at the agricultural employment agency HOPS Labour Solutions, told the Farmers Guardian he was not optimistic that avoiding the loss of seasonal workers was high in government priorities: “We may only just start to move up that list when we cannot pick all of the strawberries for Wimbledon or Brussels sprouts for Christmas.”

Shropshire is more confident however: “I just can’t believe it will happen. “It would be a great shame for the country to export a large chunk of the British fresh produce industry.”

Laurence Olins, chairman of industry group British Summer Fruits, recently sent a letter and a large tray of fresh strawberries, raspberries and other berries to the new environment and home secretaries, Andrea Leadsom and Amber Rudd: “I sent the tray so they could actually taste them and see what they would be missing.”

An Overpopulation Problem – Not the One You Might Think Of

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/jimmy-pierson/theres-an-overpopulation-_b_10887270.html

There’s An Overpopulation Problem, But Not the One You Might Think

Jimmy Pierson  07/11/2016.

Writer and spokesperson for The Vegan Society.

There’s an overpopulation problem alright, but not the one you might think. There are seven billion people on our planet, but times that number by 10 and you get the 70 billion farm animals driving the worst environmental crisis of modern times.

cow

The impact of increased human numbers will come under renewed scrutiny this World Population Day (11 July). Rightly so; the faster we grow, the faster we are knocking down forests, killing off species and using too much water. Climate change is no longer a distant concept, but a tangible force already affecting so many people all over the world.

Overpopulation is too often seen as a standalone issue. This seems overly simplistic. Should we not rather address the specific things humans are actually doing? There is little doubt in the scientific community which single activity is to blame: the rise of animal agriculture, responsible for at least 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than all of the world’s transport – cars, buses, trains, planes, boats, ships – combined.

While human numbers are rising at roughly 1.2% a year, livestock numbers are rising at double that rate at around 2.4% a year. Farming animals emits high levels of CO2 through activities like feed production and the management of manure, which contains nitrous oxide, a substance estimated to have 296 times the climate change potential of CO2.

Cattle also naturally produce large amounts of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas: your average cow produces around 700 litres of methane per day, the equivalent of a large 4×4 vehicle travelling 35 miles in a day. They also require huge amounts of land and water. It takes 15,500 litres of water to produce 1kg of beef, the equivalent of more than eight months of daily showers. It is also estimated that a vegan diet only requires about a third of the land needed for conventional Western diets.

What would happen if everyone in the UK abstained from eating meat for just one day per week? The emissions savings would equate to taking 5 million cars off the road. And what if everyone abstained for six days a week? That would be the same as taking every single car off UK roads.

If we continue ignoring the role of diet in climate change then the UK will have no chance of meeting its new commitment of cutting carbon emissions by 57% by 2032. Current policies which focus narrowly on the energy, transport and waste sectors fall a long way short of those required for the new target according to the government’s official climate change advisors.

What we really need is a public education campaign on the disastrous environmental impact of farming animals. Most people in this country, I suspect, still have little idea that the production of meat, fish and dairy products is destroying the planet.

If the UK wants a policy blueprint then it should look to China, who recently announced its plan to reduce meat consumption by 50% to tackle climate change. Such foresight has to be applauded. Will a Western government ever table such a progressive climate initiative? It is hard to imagine one in the UK anytime soon.

A global shift to a vegan diet would see climate emissions decrease by 70% by 2050, according to a recent study by Oxford University, and result in a monetary saving of over $1trillion in costs linked to climate change and healthcare. Can we afford not to stop eating meat?

Jimmy Pierson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jimmympierson

Less Meat Eating Equals Less Global Warming

https://theconversation.com/going-veggie-would-cut-global-food-emissions-by-two-thirds-and-save-millions-of-lives-new-study-56655

March 22 2016.

Marco Springmann, Researcher, University of Oxford.

Eating more fruit and vegetables and cutting back on red and processed meat will make you healthier. That’s obvious enough. But as chickens and cows themselves eat food and burn off their own energy, meat is also major driver of climate change. Going veggie can drastically reduce your carbon footprint.

image-20160322-32300-15iutwp

This is all at a personal level. What about when you multiply such changes by 7 billion people, and factor in a growing population?

In our latest research, colleagues and I estimate that changes towards more plant-based diets in line with the WHO’s global dietary guidelines could avert 5m-8m deaths per year by 2050. This represents a 6-10% reduction in global mortality.

Food-related greenhouse gas emissions would also be cut by more than two thirds. In all, these dietary changes would have a value to society of more than US$1 trillion – even as much as US$30 trillion. That’s up to a tenth of the likely global GDP in 2050. Our results are published in the journal PNAS.

Future projections of diets paint a grim picture. Fruit and vegetable consumption is expected to increase, but so is red meat consumption and the amount of calories eaten in general. Of the 105 world regions included in our study, fewer than a third are on course to meet dietary recommendations.

A bigger population, eating a worse diet, means that by 2050 food-related GHG emissions will take up half of the “emissions budget” the world has for limiting global warming to less than 2℃.

To see how dietary changes could avert such a doom and gloom scenario, we constructed four alternative diets and analysed their health and environmental impacts: one reference scenario based on projections of diets in 2050; a scenario based on global dietary guidelines which includes minimum amounts of fruits and vegetables, and limits to the amount of red meat, sugar, and total calories; and two vegetarian scenarios, one including eggs and dairy (lacto-ovo vegetarian), and the other completely plant-based (vegan).

Millions of avoidable deaths.

We found that adoption of global dietary guidelines could result in 5.1m avoided deaths per year in 2050. Vegetarian and vegan diets could result in 7.3m and 8.1m avoided deaths respectively. About half of this is thanks to eating less red meat. The other half comes thanks to eating more fruit and veg, along with a reduction in total energy intake (and the associated decreases in obesity).

There are huge regional variations. About two thirds of the health benefits of dietary change are projected to occur in developing countries, in particular in East Asia and South Asia. But high-income countries closely follow, and the per-person benefits in developed countries could actually be twice as large as those in developing countries, as their relatively more imbalanced diets leave greater room for improvement.

Room for improvement.

China would see the largest health benefits, with around 1.4m to 1.7m averted deaths per year. Cutting red meat and reducing general overconsumption would be the most important factor there and in other big beneficiaries such as the EU and the US. In India, however, up to a million deaths per year would be avoided largely thanks to eating more fruit and vegetables.

Russia and other Eastern European countries would see huge benefits per-person, in particular due to less red meat consumption. People in small island nations such as Mauritius and Trinidad and Tobago would benefit due to reduced obesity.

Vegans vs climate change?

We estimated that adopting global dietary guidelines would cut food-related emissions by 29%. But even this still wouldn’t be enough to reduce food-related greenhouse gas emissions in line with the overall cutbacks necessary to keep global temperature increases below 2°C.

To seriously fight climate change, more plant-based diets will be needed. Our analysis shows if the world went vegetarian that cut in food-related emissions would rise to 63%. And if everyone turned vegan? A huge 70%.

What’s it worth?

Dietary changes would have huge economic benefits, leading to savings of US$700-1,000 billion per year globally in healthcare, unpaid informal care and lost working days. The value that society places on the reduced risk of dying could even be as high as 9-13% of global GDP, or US$20-$30 trillion. Avoided climate change damages from reduced food-related greenhouse gas emissions could be as much as US$570 billion.

Putting a dollar value on good health and the environment is a sensitive issue. However, our results indicate that dietary changes could have large benefits to society, and the value of those benefits makes a strong case for healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets.

The scale of the task is clearly enormous. Fruit and vegetable production and consumption would need to more than double in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia just to meet global dietary recommendations, whereas red meat consumption would need to be halved globally, and cut by two thirds in richer countries. We’d also need to tackle the key problem of overconsumption. It’s a lot to chew on.

Earth Has Lost a Third of Arable Land in Past 40 Years

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/02/arable-land-soil-food-security-shortage

Earth has lost a third of arable land in past 40 years, scientists say

Oliver Milman, The Guardian, Wednesday 2 December 2015.

The world has lost a third of its arable land due to erosion or pollution in the past 40 years, with potentially disastrous consequences as global demand for food soars, scientists have warned.

New research has calculated that nearly 33% of the world’s adequate or high-quality food-producing land has been lost at a rate that far outstrips the pace of natural processes to replace diminished soil.

The University of Sheffield’s Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, which undertook the study by analysing various pieces of research published over the past decade, said the loss was “catastrophic” and the trend close to being irretrievable without major changes to agricultural practices.

Analysis/ Can farms be good for nature without being organic?

The continual ploughing of fields, combined with heavy use of fertilizers, has degraded soils across the world, the research found, with erosion occurring at a pace of up to 100 times greater than the rate of soil formation. It takes around 500 years for just 2.5cm of topsoil to be created amid unimpeded ecological changes.

“You think of the dust bowl of the 1930s in North America and then you realise we are moving towards that situation if we don’t do something,” said Duncan Cameron, professor of plant and soil biology at the University of Sheffield.

“We are increasing the rate of loss and we are reducing soils to their bare mineral components,” he said. “We are creating soils that aren’t fit for anything except for holding a plant up. The soils are silting up river systems – if you look at the huge brown stain in the ocean where the Amazon deposits soil, you realise how much we are accelerating that process.

“We aren’t quite at the tipping point yet, but we need to do something about it. We are up against it if we are to reverse this decline.”

The erosion of soil has largely occurred due to the loss of structure by continual disturbance for crop planting and harvesting. If soil is repeatedly turned over, it is exposed to oxygen and its carbon is released into the atmosphere, causing it to fail to bind as effectively. This loss of integrity impacts soil’s ability to store water, which neutralizes its role as a buffer to floods and a fruitful base for plants.

Degraded soils are also vulnerable to being washed away by weather events fueled by global warming. Deforestation, which removes trees that help knit landscapes together, is also detrimental to soil health.

The steep decline in soil has occurred at a time when the world’s demand for food is rapidly increasing. It’s estimated the world will need to grow 50% more food by 2050 to feed an anticipated population of 9 billion people. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, the increase in food production will be most needed in developing countries.

The academics behind the University of Sheffield study propose a number of remedies to soil loss, including recycling nutrients from sewerage, using biotechnology to wean plants off their dependence upon fertilizers, and rotating crops with livestock areas to relieve pressure on arable land.

Around 30% of the world’s ice-free surfaces are used to keep chicken, cattle, pigs and other livestock, rather than to grow crops.

“We need a radical solution, which is to re-engineer our agricultural system,” Cameron said. “We need to take land out of production for a long time to allow soil carbon to rebuild and become stable. We already have lots of land – it’s being used for pasture by the meat and dairy industries. Rather than keep it separated, we need to bring it into rotation, so that that there is more land in the system and less is being used at any one time.”

Why seed banks aren’t the only answer to food security

Cameron said he accepted this would involve direct government intervention, funding for farmers and “brave” policymaking.

“We can’t blame the farmers in this. We need to provide the capitalisation to help them rather than say, ‘Here’s a new policy, go and do it,’” he said. “We have the technology. We just need the political will to give us a fighting chance of solving this problem.”

 

Eat Less Meat to Avoid Dangerous Global Warming

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/mar/21/eat-less-meat-vegetarianism-dangerous-global-warming

Eat less meat to avoid dangerous global warming, scientists say.

Fiona Harvey, Monday 21 March 2016.

Growing food for the world’s burgeoning population is likely to send greenhouse gas emissions over the threshold of safety, unless more is done to cut meat consumption, a new report has found. A widespread switch to vegetarianism would cut emissions by nearly two-thirds, it said.

In three decades, emissions related to agriculture and food production are likely to account for about half of the world’s available “carbon budget” – the limited amount of carbon dioxide and its equivalents that can be poured into the atmosphere if we are to hold global warming to no more than 2C.

While energy generation, transport and buildings have long been a target for governments, businesses and campaigners looking to reduce emissions, the impact from food production has often been left out. But on current trends, with intensive agriculture increasingly geared towards livestock rearing, food production will be a major concern.

The research, led by scientists at the Oxford Martin School, found that shifting to a mostly vegetarian diet, or even simply cutting down meat consumption to within accepted health guidelines, would make a large dent in greenhouse gases.

Adhering to health guidelines on meat consumption could cut global food-related emissions by nearly a third by 2050, the study found, while widespread adoption of a vegetarian diet would bring down emissions by 63%. The additional benefit of going further, with the widespread adoption of veganism, brought a smaller incremental benefit, with emissions falling by about 70% in the projections.

Such steps would also save lives, argued Dr Marco Springmann, lead author of the study, entitled Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change co-benefits of dietary change, and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Tuesday.

“Imbalanced diets, such as diets low in fruits and vegetables and high in red and processed meat, are responsible for the greatest health burden globally and in most regions,” he said. “At the same time, the food system is responsible [currently] for more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore a major driver of climate change.”

More than 5m premature deaths could be avoided globally by 2050 if health guidelines on meat consumption were followed, rising to more than 7m with a vegetarian diet and 8m on veganism. These steps, if widely followed, could also reduce global healthcare costs by $1bn a year by mid-century.

Intensive livestock-rearing is a major cause of greenhouse gases, in part because of the methane produced by the animals and the massive slurry pits that accompany large farms. It also diverts water and grains to animal-rearing, which is less efficient than directing the grains towards direct human consumption.

Non-intensive rearing of livestock, such as raising animals on marginal land, could be “an interesting proposal” that would allow meat-eating at lower levels with less environmental harm, said Springmann. “That is one of the discussions that could spring up as a result of our research.”

Individuals were often confused by health messaging, food labelling and the availability of foodstuffs, he added, meaning that many people do not realise the harm that over-consumption of meat may be doing them. As populations around the world have grown more prosperous, with the rise of middle class societies in areas that have emerged from poverty, people have tended to switch their diets to include more meat as they have grown richer.

Governments agreed at a landmark climate conference in Paris in December to hold global warming to no more than 2C above pre-industrial levels, with an aspiration of an even lower target, of 1.5C. However, the exact measures that will be required to meet the global goal, and nationally set emissions targets, have yet to be fully worked out.

Linking health and climate change in challenging our eating habits could have more effect than focusing on each of these issues alone, said Springmann. “By combining the two benefits, you have a more powerful impact. I think this will make more of an impression,” he said.

“We do not expect everybody to become vegan. But the climate change impacts of the food system will require more than just technological changes. Adopting healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets can be a large stop in the right direction. The size of the projected benefits should encourage individuals, industry and policymakers to act decisively to make sure that what we eat preserves our environment and health,” he said.