Saturday, June 17, 2017

Global Diet and Farming Methods 'Must Change for Environment's Sake'

Researchers say people must eat less meat and alter farming methods if the planet is to sustainably provide for growing human populations. (Photo Credit: majeczka/Shutterstock) Click to Enlarge.
Reducing meat consumption and using more efficient farming methods globally are essential to stave off irreversible damage to the environmental, a new study says.

The research, from the University of Minnesota, also found that future increases in agricultural sustainability are likely to be driven by dietary shifts and increases in efficiency, rather than changes between food production systems.

Researchers examined more than 740 production systems for more than 90 different types of food, to understand the links between diets, agricultural production practices and environmental degradation.  Their results are published Friday in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Lead author Dr Michael Clark said:  "If we want to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, but still provide a secure food supply for a growing global population, it is essential to understand how these things are linked."

Using life cycle assessments - which detail the input, output and environmental impact of a food production system - the researchers analysed the comparative environmental impacts of different food production systems (e.g. conventional versus organic; grain-fed versus grass-fed beef; trawling versus non-trawling fisheries; and greenhouse-grown versus open-field produce), different agricultural input efficiencies (such as feed and fertilizer), and different foods.

The impacts they studied covered levels of land use, greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), fossil fuel energy use, eutrophication (nutrient runoff), and acidification potential.
Dr Clark said:  "Interestingly, we also found that a shift away from ruminant meats like beef - which have impacts three to 10 times greater than other animal-based foods - towards nutritionally similar foods like pork, poultry, or fish would have significant benefits, both for the environment and for human health.

"Larger dietary shifts, such as global adoption of low-meat or vegetarian diets, would offer even larger benefits to environmental sustainability and human health."

Read more at Global Diet and Farming Methods 'Must Change for Environment's Sake'

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