Effect of Meat, Dairy on Environment

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There have been many studies on the impact of consumption of meat and dairy on the environment. A report published in Climate Policy by Dr Helen Harwatt said more than 80% of farmland is used for livestock but it produces just 18% of food calories and 37% of the protein consumed by humans.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the livestock, including poultry, accounts for about 14.5% of greenhouse emissions.

“Feeding a world population of 10 billion is possible, but only if we change the way we eat and the way we produce food,” said Prof Johan Rockström at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who was part of the research team. “Greening the food sector or eating up our planet: this is what is on the menu today.”

Dr. Harwatt said if we want to limit climate change, we need to take more of our protein from plant sources, not animals. The study states there are about 28 billion livestock population in the world. The livestock releases methane and nitrous oxide into the environment. Methane is greenhouse gas and has a higher global warming potential, and as a result methane emissions could touch 60% by 2030. Therefore, a switch to plant-based proteins could be beneficial in reducing greenhouse emissions.

In contradiction to these studies, Richard Young, Policy Director at Sustainable Food Trust, said livestock production must be reformed, but eliminating it would do more harm than good. The article in Climate & Capitalism urged the impact of production of palm oil; soya bean oil, rape oil and sunflower oil on environment was harmful. Use of nitrogen fertiliser and soil degradation can pose serious threat to the environment.

The article noted grazed grasslands have a range of benefits such as purifying drinking water, food for pollinating insects. The article also highlights the fact that high methane emissions are also caused due to fossil fuels.

The studies highlight the need to find a solution to curb greenhouse emissions in a sustainable manner.




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Posted By : ScienceIndia Administrator
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