New Jersey senator and presidential hopeful Cory Booker put forth the Farm System Reform Act of 2019, in recognition of the environmental impact of industrial agriculture, which would put a stop to any new factory farms, as The Hill reported.
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A group of scientists is warning that livestock production must not expand after 2030 for the world to stave off ecological disaster.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Anne-Sophie Brändlin
October 16 marks World Food Day this year, a day celebrated every year by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
World Food Day is a call to make healthy and sustainable diets affordable and accessible for everyone, while nurturing the planet at the same time.
Why Meat and Dairy Are Bad for the Climate<p>Livestock are responsible for almost 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the <a href="http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/197623/icode/" target="_blank">FAO</a>.</p><p>Cattle is the biggest culprit. Raised for both beef and milk, cows represent about 65 percent of the livestock sector's emissions, followed by pork (9 percent), buffalo milk (8 percent), and poultry and eggs (8 percent).</p><p>A byproduct of cow digestion is methane (CH4) and accounts for the majority of livestock emissions. The greenhouse gas is estimated to be at least 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>But livestock production is also responsible for other greenhouse gas emissions, such as nitrous oxide (N20) and carbon dioxide (CO2), mainly through the production of their feed, which often involves large applications of nitrogen-based fertilizers.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTk5OTYzOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTIxNTgyOX0.8F1SHHSaID2I5npqGimiUuE48Gm07i4YFeYXefmCcUY/img.png?width=980" id="d7c92" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a607bc1060e3439bbc0d90f560485117" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Opposite Approach to Combat Hunger?<p>But with over 800 million people still going hungry every day, impact on the climate cannot be the only guide for what people eat, the study points out.</p><p>Animal source foods, specifically milk and eggs, are in fact a valuable source of protein and nutrients like calcium, which are especially important for young children and pregnant women.</p><p><em>Read more: </em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/pakistan-struggling-to-eradicate-malnutrition-in-children/a-49294026" target="_blank">Pakistan struggling to eradicate malnutrition in children</a></p><p>"Some countries, such as Indonesia, India and most of the African countries may actually need to dramatically increase their greenhouse gas emissions and water use, because they have to combat hunger and stunting," Bloem said.</p><p>In these countries, there is still a 40 percent rate of stunting, a side effect of undernutrition that results in lower than average growth in children.</p><p>Stunting also has a major, long-term impact on the cognitive abilities of the children.</p><p>"It's irreversible by the age of two, so stunting has huge implications for the human capital in those countries. That's why it's very critical that we prevent stunting and we need animal source foods for that," Bloem said. "We cannot keep that out of the equation when talking about climate protection." </p><p>Another solution, according to Bloem, would be to fortify certain products, like cereal. This would help reduce the need to get nutrients through animal products. It's a practice already in use in many developed countries, but so far hasn't been applied in many poorer countries.</p>
Fish Could Make All the Difference<p>Diets in which protein came predominantly from low food chain animals – such as small fish and mollusks – were found to have nearly as low of an environmental impact as a vegan diet.</p><p>"Small fish are really critical for poor people, particularly in Africa and Asia, as that's one of the main sources for protein and calcium, because the milk intake is very low in those countries," Bloem said.</p><p>"But 80% of all the fish produced nowadays actually comes from Asia and is imported in Europe and the US. And the feed for some of these bigger fish we import are actually those smaller fish, which means the poorer people have no more access to this vital source of protein and calcium." </p><p>Researchers also determined that a diet that reduced animal food consumption by two-thirds – termed by study authors as going "two-thirds vegan" – generally had a lower climate and water footprint than vegetarian diets that included eggs and diary, but not fish.</p>
Where You Get Your Food From Matters<p>Researchers also found that local production wasn't always the best way to go from a climate perspective.</p><p>The production of one pound (0.45 kilograms) of beef in Paraguay, for instance, contributes nearly 17 times more greenhouse gases than one pound of beef produced in Denmark. Often, this disparity came from deforestation to create grazing land, according to the study.</p><p>"So a food's country of origin can have enormous consequences for the climate," Bloem said.</p><p>"In Europe the soil is much more fertile, for instance, which makes the production there more efficient. So trade could actually be good for the climate if food is produced in places where the climate impact is the lowest," Bloem said, adding that this is the case even when emissions from transportation are factored in.</p><p>The study concludes that middle- and low-income countries need to be guided and supported by developed countries to avoid environmental mistakes the planet is already paying for. </p><p>"It needs to be a close collaboration between developed and developing countries. It's a joint problem. We are all in this together," Bloem said.</p><p>Another way industrialized countries could reduce their impact on the climate is <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/fighting-climate-change-by-tackling-food-waste/a-48384916" target="_blank">reducing food waste</a> — one-third of all food produced worldwide ends up in the bin, with Europeans on average throwing away 95 kilograms (209 lbs) of food per person, per year. In low-income African countries south of the Sahara, it's only 6 kilograms (13 lbs).</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMTk5OTY0OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxODE4NDE2Mn0.uQPcuPUg8AcuSSDvgd87IJOJRFtn6bLm_MBs7P4yJJQ/img.png?width=980" id="3a3ed" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d80706920d88c1ee328e8b9ea51cb4d9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Context Is Key<p>But despite the findings, one key conclusion of the report is that there aren't always straight-forward answers, according to Bloem.</p><p>"That's why we conducted analyses in all these different countries so that you can see what the most optimal way is for each individual country – but also the entire world to deal with diets and health criteria, as well as climate and sustainability," he said.</p><p>In the end, the study came up with nine plant-forward diets, ranging from no red meat to pescatarian (a vegetarian diet that includes seafood), lacto-ovo vegetarian (a vegetarian diet that includes dairy and eggs), to vegan, which are to be presented to policymakers in each country.</p><p>At the same time, the study urges people in the Western world to do more. </p><p>Baby boomers in the developed world, for instance, on average spend less than 10% of their income on food, while the same generation in countries like Nigeria, Kenya or Bangladesh spends 50 to 60% of their income on food, according to Bloem.</p><p>"For us in the Western world, we can pay more for our food so that we can pay for the unintended consequences."</p>
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It has long been a public health truism that limiting meat consumption is better for your body. The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer and the World Cancer Research Fund both say red or processed meat can cause cancer, as Reuters noted. But a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine Tuesday argued that this might not be the case.
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Meat-eaters put a lot of faith in USDA inspection facilities, which are often overwhelmed by an endless flow of animals ready for slaughter to meet our seemingly endless demand for meat.
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- More restaurant chains are turning to faux-meat options.
- But experts say just because it's not meat, doesn't mean it's significantly healthier.
- In general, diets lower in meat can be healthier. But faux-meat products can have high sodium levels.
Burger King has the Impossible Whopper. Carl's Jr. has their Beyond Famous Star. KFC even introduced a plant-based chicken-like product — and sold out in 5 hours.
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The UN set a global goal to cut food loss and waste in half by 2030. Alarming figures show just how big of a challenge remains.
10 Ways to Scale Action<p>To accelerate momentum, here are 10 interventions that can rapidly spur deployment of a Target Measure Act approach and actor-specific actions.</p><h4>1. Develop national strategies for food loss and waste reduction.</h4><p>Only a handful of nations have established strategies to reduce food loss and waste, including the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Ethiopia. National strategies help align public policies, private sector actions, farmer practices and consumer behavior toward a shared goal, so it's critical that more nations create strategies to halve food loss and waste.</p><h4>2. Create national public-private partnerships.</h4><p>Reducing food loss and waste requires action across the entire food supply chain as well as supportive public policies. No single institution can drive a 50% economy-wide reduction on its own. Public-private partnerships have an emerging track record, having launched in countries like the Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States. In the UK, the Courtauld Commitment has been signed by 53 retailers, who have committed to measure and reduce food waste. If such partnerships emerged in the following countries, then 20 of the world's largest agriculture exporters would be covered, representing 45 percent of the world's population: Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, China, France, India, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Thailand and Turkey.</p>
Thailand farmer rows boat laden with fruit and vegetables to market.
WRI / Flickr<h4><br>3. Launch a "10x20x30" supply chain initiative.</h4><p>Food losses often occur during production and, especially in low-income countries, during handling and storage. Launching a private sector campaign where at least 10 of the largest food and agriculture companies commit to act and engage their 20 largest suppliers to do the same by 2030 (hence, 10x20x30) could have a big impact. This approach leverages the relative market concentration and power of a few companies to catalyze change across the supply chain and geographies. This intervention follows a model set by retail-giant Tesco, which has secured the commitment of 27 of its major suppliers to set targets, measure progress and act.</p><h4>4. Reduce smallholder losses.</h4><p>If we're to halve food losses, efforts to assist smallholders with productivity and efficiency need a big boost---especially in reaching smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, regions that lose an estimated 26% of their food during harvesting, handling and storage. Approaches include training farmers in reducing losses, creating access to markets for smallholders and improving storage solutions. For example, as part of The Rockefeller Foundation's YieldWise initiative, farmers growing tomatoes in Nigeria were trained in improved agronomic practices and access to aggregation centers, which reduced transport time to market. Following these interventions, losses were reduced by 54%.</p><h4>5. Launch a "decade of storage solutions."</h4><p>What if the 2020s became a decade of making food storage technologies ubiquitous, affordable and climate-friendly? Doing so would tackle a huge hotspot of food loss and waste in low-income countries, helping ensure more food makes it safely to market. Innovations in solar-powered coolers and "lease-to-own" financing arrangements for villages can help.</p><h4>6. Shift consumer social norms.</h4><p>Behavioral science tells us that increased knowledge of an issue alone does not necessarily translate into changed behavior. What successful initiatives like the UK's 'Love Food, Hate Waste' campaign have shown is that you must give people information and make it easy for them to change their behavior. That's why 'Love Food, Hate Waste' ran advertisements to raise awareness and worked with retailers to get rid of offers such as 'buy one get one free' that encourage over-buying as well as to print food storage information on food packaging, making it easier for people to waste less food. What's needed is for norms in high-income countries and cities everywhere to shift so that wasting food becomes unacceptable.</p><h4>7. Go after emissions reductions.</h4><p>Reducing food loss and waste is an underappreciated greenhouse gas mitigation strategy. By tackling food loss and waste from emissions-intensive <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/beef" target="_self">beef</a>, dairy and rice, these food sectors can reduce their impact on <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate</a>. Another strategy is for countries to add food loss and waste reduction to their national climate plans, known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). To date, fewer than a dozen countries have included food loss and waste reduction in their NDCs.</p><h4>8. Scale up financing.</h4><p>Many of the promising solutions to reduce food loss and waste need an influx in financing to take off. In 2016, The Rockefeller Foundation launched the $130 million YieldWise initiative to tackle food losses in Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania, and food waste in North America and Europe. In 2019, the World Bank launched a $300 million Sustainable Development Bond focused on food loss and waste reduction. More of such investments are needed by a wider suite of financiers, ranging from grants and blended finance to venture capital and commercial investments.</p><h4>9. Overcome the data deficit.</h4><p>Without more and better data to understand the scale and scope of the food loss and waste challenge, we risk not being able to identify hotspots, hone reduction strategies and monitor progress. Over the next five years, the world needs a concentrated push to measure the quantity of food loss and waste in a more consistent way so that data is comparable.</p><h4>10. Advance the research agenda.</h4><p>Public and private research institutions have an important role, helping answer questions that will allow the world to refine strategies for reducing food loss and waste. These are questions like: Which solutions are showing the best return on investment? What technologies are most promising? What can behavioral science tell us about how to shift social norms when it comes to food waste? And what types of infrastructure do farmers in low-income countries need to reduce on-farm and near-farm losses? </p>
There Are Enormous Benefits to Reducing Food Loss and Waste<p>Successfully halving food loss and waste would bring enormous benefits. It would close the gap between food needed in 2050 and food available in 2010 by more than 20 percent. It would avoid the need to convert an area the size of Argentina into agricultural land. And it would lower greenhouse gas emissions by 1.5 gigatons per year by 2050, an amount more than the current energy and industry related emissions of Japan.</p><p>The size of the prize is huge. So, too, must be the action to seize it.</p>
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The world's population will hit 10 billion in just 30 years and all of those people need to eat. To feed that many humans with the resources Earth has, we will have to cut down the amount of beef we eat, according to a new report by the World Resources Institute.
georgeclerk / E+ / Getty Images
By Jennifer Molidor
One million species are at risk of extinction from human activity, warns a recent study by scientists with the United Nations. We need to cut greenhouse gas pollution across all sectors to avoid catastrophic climate change — and we need to do it fast, said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
This research should serve as a rallying cry for polluting industries to make major changes now. Yet the agriculture industry continues to lag behind.