Irish agriculture’s reputation for natural food production and a low environmental footprint is at risk of being “irreversibly damaged” due to deteriorating environmental trends, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned.
The environmental watchdog’s seventh State of the Environment report cautions that “business as usual” will not reverse negative trends in ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), and declines in water quality and biodiversity.
The EPA believes “systemic change is required across the food system to address the challenges”.
Agriculture is responsible for around a third of national GHG emissions and 99% of national ammonia emissions and has been identified as the largest significant pressure on water resources.
Food Wise 2025
The report, which outlines the current condition and outlook of Ireland’s environment, is critical of Food Wise 2025. It says the economic growth of the sector in recent years has occurred at the expense of the environment.
It calls for the imbalance to be urgently addressed in the new strategy for the sector to 2030 that is currently being developed.
“The agri-food and land management sectors in both the public and the private arenas also need to become, and be seen to be, strong advocates for a clean and well-protected environment, as they have been for intensification and efficiency,” the report says.
It warns that agriculture will be at the frontline of climate change. Ireland is expected to experience more drought-like periods, increased intense rainfall events, and plant and animal diseases that have previously not been prevalent in the country.
While the EPA acknowledges the development of measures to reduce agricultural emissions, it says that much wider uptake and implantation at farm level is needed.
The EPA is advocating for a focused farm-and-catchment-level approach to environmental actions.