We share one planet, food producers and environmentalists.
We share it with each other and the rest of existence, and we need to protect it from catastrophic transformation.
The problem is, that’s about all we can agree on.
There are, of course, all shades of opinion on both sides, but there is a growing view within the environmental lobby that we must transform to a plant-based diet.
A rapid and drastic reduction in the amount of farmed animals is needed.
This would free up land currently devoted to crop production for animal feed to switch to growing crops for the human diet. And we can therefore return vast tracts of farmed land to nature.
As a thought experiment it sounds fine, but food-production systems as they have evolved are very complicated
There is a second layer to this thinking. Not only must humanity’s diet be plant-based, it should be organically grown too.
There are a number of issues with this mindset.
As a thought experiment it sounds fine, but food-production systems as they have evolved are very complicated.
The other main complicating factor is that the “four legs bad” mindset is based on a snapshot of global food systems.
[...] land and nutrient efficiency can be improved by harnessing cutting-edge technology
Our understanding is itself evolving. There are significant challenges for all food production, for methane-emitting livestock and for pesticides and chemical fertiliser usage levels.
And finally, land and nutrient efficiency can be improved by harnessing cutting-edge technology. However, those most set against pesticide and chemical fertiliser use often oppose the use of GMO and even CRISPR technology as adaptation measures.
The National Farmers Union (the English and Welsh organisation) president Minette Batters this week referenced Origin Green and the Irish Government’s collaboration with farmers as an example for her government to examine. They “work in partnership with them to create a sustainable plan for Irish agriculture which delivers domestically and globally,” she said.
Yet, the environmental pillar walked out of last year’s Food Vision 2030 talks, so unhappy were they with the final outcome. An Taisce’s prolonged legal challenge to the granting of planning for Glanbia/Royal A-ware’s cheese plant may also be a sign of things to come.
Ireland’s farm production is 90% livestock from grassland and less than 2% organic. And this is incompatible with the world view of a very vocal and prominent group of people. They don’t want evolution, they want a sudden and drastic transformation. The two sides are further apart than might first appear.