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“Disconcerting” to omit reducing meat consumption from UN climate plan

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“Disconcerting” to omit reducing meat consumption from UN climate plan

The omission of reducing meat consumption from proposals for a UN roadmap to tackle the climate crisis and end hunger is “disconcerting”, academic experts say.

The group also criticized the report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which “dismisses” the potential of alternative proteins, such as plant-based meat, to reduce the impact of livestock on livestock. ‘environment.

In a comment published in the journal Nature FoodExperts said FAO’s failure to include a methodology for how the 120 actions it supported were chosen, or a list of authors, was “concerning and surprising”.

They called for future installments of the road map to be more transparent so that its recommendations can be assessed against the numerous scientific studies that have shown that reducing meat consumption in rich countries would benefit the climate and human health. The FAO said the experts’ article “failed to make an appropriate assessment of the report and its ideas.”

In October, the Guardian revealed claims by former FAO officials that its leaders censored and undermined them when they highlighted how methane from livestock was a major contributor to global warming. Scientists have shown that the international climate target of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, cannot be achieved without major changes in food production. Livestock produce 12-20% of total global greenhouse gas emissions and use 83% of agricultural land to provide 18% of calories.

THE FAO Roadmap was released at the Cop28 climate summit in December and recognizes that diets “must absolutely (change) for human and planetary health.” But its 120 actions do not include reducing meat and dairy consumption in countries where most people already consume unhealthy amounts. Instead, many of the FAO recommendations aim to intensify the efficiency of breeding techniques.

“It’s very striking that FAO is not including one of the clearest interventions that would help achieve both environmental and health goals,” said Cleo Verkuijl of the US Environmental Protection Institute. Stockholm and one of eight authors of the commentary from academic institutions in the United States, the Netherlands and Brazil.

“It is also very surprising that the FAO completely rejects alternative proteins,” she said. These meats have been shown to have a much lower environmental impact than conventional meat, but the FAO has claimed, without providing evidence, that plant-based meats have “nutritional deficiencies”, according to experts.

A United Nations Environment Program report (UNEP), released in December, said “alternatives to animal products such as meat and dairy could help significantly reduce the environmental footprint of the current global food system.”

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Another author, Professor Matthew Hayek, of New York University, said: “FAO fails to present concrete methods or data to support its claim that incremental adjustments in animal management Livestock alone can achieve our climate goals.

“With all that food systems are trying to accomplish over the next two decades, there are many needles left to thread: increasing the food supply while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and improving health and nutrition while reducing the risk of illness, foodborne illness. and pandemics,” he said. “Overall, (reducing consumption of animal products) widens the eye of those needles. Ignoring this major opportunity for multiple co-benefits in climate, food security and health is simply mind-boggling, and the reasons for omitting it are opaque.

Experts also criticized the FAO report for not mentioning the “One Health” approach, which links human, animal and environmental health, despite the FAO being part of a initiative with the World Health Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health and UNEP to support implementation of the approach.

“Some of the interventions proposed by the FAO roadmap, such as the transition from beef to chicken and the intensification of animal agriculture, could maintain or even significantly increase the risks of antimicrobial resistance and/or zoonotic diseases “, said the authors.

The roadmap recognizes these risks and asserts that productivity increases must be achieved while avoiding “adverse consequences resulting from the concentration of animals coupled with excessive use of antibiotics”. But this can be difficult, the authors say: “Switching to more plant-based foods is a promising solution.”

David Laborde, director of FAO’s agri-food economics and policy division, rejected criticism of the article. “We highlight the importance of dietary changes from the first pages of the report, highlighting how this issue is often overlooked. » Dietary change is mentioned eight times in the 50-page summary report, but reducing meat or dairy consumption is not mentioned.

“Changes in diets should not be overly simplistic but based on science and evidence,” he said. “It is important to note that meat is only one part of changing diets and limiting discussions to the issue of meat is not helpful.”

Laborde said the report did not rule out alternative proteins: “We just firmly believe that betting on a silver bullet to solve the problem is not realistic.” He said a methodology and list of authors, as well as the term “One Health,” were included in the full version of the report, which has not been published online.

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