EU countries should take drastic action to cut food waste, reduce meat consumption, and turn away from intensive farming, according to participants at a Brussels conference.
Speaking at the conference, Averting Farmageddon: Sustainable food for all, Professor Athanasios Tsaftaris, the Greek Minister for Rural Development and Food, said governments should be cutting food waste and at the same time should question societal demand for ever increasing food production.
The conference was organised by the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union in association with Compassion in World Farming. It featured speakers including Dr Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Ben Casper from the European Commission and Compassion in World Farming CEO, Philip Lymbery.
Oliver De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur, receives his Food Revolutionary award from Compassion
Dr De Schutter said the current model of food production was not working and called for action from governments to reflect the true cost of cheap meat through taxes and subsidies and also urged for consumers to be given more information to help them choose better meat.
He said: "I don't think that our current levels of meat consumption are sustainable. Industrial farming should not be allowed to grow further."
He was presented with a "Food Revolutionary" award by Joyce D'Silva of Compassion in World Farming in recognition of his outstanding work in the field of sustainable food production.
Mr Casper said the projections of a 70% increase in food production by 2050 were "nonsense". "It's what we would have to do if demand continued to rise as it is now and we did nothing," he said, "That is not a strategy."
Mr Caspar's remarks were broadly welcomed by delegates to the conference. However, Compassion is concerned by rumours that the Commission's forthcoming communication on sustainable food will avoid ruffling feathers by focusing on waste, rather than proposing difficult but critical decisions on the future of the livestock sector.
There needs to be a wholesale assessment of the way livestock are raised for our meat and milk, looking at the impact on the environment, resource use, nutrition and animal welfare outcomes from each system of production, including factory farming, which is the dominant paradigm today.
Compassion's CEO Philip Lymbery, said the biggest single cause of food waste on the planet is the human-edible cereal fed to livestock. Giving examples from his new book, Farmageddon, he went on to demonstrate that the European Commission's communication on sustainable food needs to look at more than just waste, as the current system, driven by intensive farming, has devastated the countryside, contributed to the obesity crisis and seen billions of farm animals suffer.
Averting Farmageddon: Sustainable food for all was held by Compassion in World Farming in association with the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union on 18th February in Brussels.
All proceeds from the book will go to Compassion in World Farming.