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Our food system has been hijacked

News Section Icon Published 11/03/2015

With an ever-growing global population, the question of feeding the planet is a major issue. There are so many different opinions in the media it’s often difficult to know what the best solution is. 

Our Chief Policy Advisor’s letter in response to a recent editorial in the Guardian exposes some of the myths in the current debate on food security and outlines how we can feed the world without factory farming. 

Peter Stevenson writes: 

Your editorial (Hunger is coming. The temperature rises and rivers dry up. How can we feed the world? 2 March) asks a crucial question.  Policy-makers tell us 70% more food must be produced by 2050 to feed the growing world population. 

Not so.  We already produce enough food to feed twice the current world population.  But globally we waste 60% of it: it’s wasted through post-harvest loses, by being thrown out by consumers and by the use of cereals to feed animals.  For every 100 calories fed to animals in the form of human-edible crops, we receive 10 calories or less in the form of meat.

Just halving these various food wastes means we would need to produce less.  It would allow us to farm less intensively with reduced monocultures and agro-chemicals. 

Degraded soils could be rebuilt, water used more sparingly and biodiversity restored.  Developed world consumers would need to eat less meat and milk, which would come from animals mainly fed on pastures, crop residues and unavoidable food waste. 

Lower consumption of animal products would lead to a reduction in both diet-related disease and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  Just halving EU meat and dairy consumption would lead to a 25-40% reduction in GHG emissions.  A Chatham House paper shows that without such a shift in diets it will be impossible to keep temperature increases to below 2°C.

Our food system has been hi-jacked by the food industry which has interposed itself between farmers and consumers driving down farmers’ margins and foisting overconsumption of unhealthy processed foods onto the public.  We need a new model of food and farming.    


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