Food and farming policies 'need total rethink'

Claire Marshall BBC News 5 Oct 17;

Can farming and food production be made less damaging to the planet?

A big meeting in London will look at how reforms could help halt species extinction, meet climate goals, limit the spread of antibiotic resistance and improve animal welfare.

The organisers of the Extinction and Livestock Conference say diverse interests will be represented.

They include multinational food corporations, native breed farmers, neurologists and naturalists.

McDonalds, Tesco and Compass will be rubbing shoulders with those from the Sustainable Food Trust, Quorn and WWF. The 500 delegates come from more than 30 countries.

Their wide interests illustrate the complex and difficult issues arising from global livestock production.

'Catastrophic impacts'

The two-day conference is being organised by Compassion in World Farming (CiWF).

The campaigning organisation warns that "there will be catastrophic impacts for life on Earth unless there is a global move away from intensive farming".

The world is on track to lose two-thirds of its wildlife by the end of this decade, largely because habitats have been destroyed to produce food for humans.

There has been a rise in so-called "superbugs" linked to the use of antibiotics in farmed animals. And methane emissions from livestock have made a significant contribution to climate change.

CiWF CEO Philip Lymbery said: "Livestock production, the environment, wildlife conservation and human health are all interlinked, so it's vital that experts from each of these fields work together to come up with practical solutions to stop this before it's too late."

CiWF believes that there should be a total rethink of food and farming policies, enshrined in the framework of a UN Convention.

The aim would be to properly integrate objectives such as food security, climate change, animal welfare and human health - so one isn't pursued at the expense of the other.

Mr Lymbery added: "Many people are aware that wild animals such as penguins, elephants and jaguars are threatened by extinction. However, few know that livestock production, fuelled by consumer demand for cheap meat, is one of the biggest drivers of species extinction and biodiversity loss on the planet."

Award-winning writer and activist Raj Patel from the University of Texas is speaking at the conference.
He said: "The footprint of global agriculture is vast. Industrial agriculture is absolutely responsible for driving deforestation, absolutely responsible for pushing industrial monoculture, and that means it is responsible for species loss.

"We're losing species we have never heard of, those we've yet to put a name to and industrial agriculture is very much at the spear-tip of that. Conferences are for forging the alliances and building the movement that will change the world."

Also attending is Martin Palmer, secretary-general of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation.
He said: "Our current food system is not about a healthy, sustainable world of food but about excess, greed and foolishness disguised as 'market forces'.

"It treats the natural world not as something we are part of and therefore should treasure, but as a larder we can raid and somehow hope it gets filled again.

"But the truth is, it won't! As a result of this conference I would hope that all the key players - including the great faiths - would find a place at the table and together, each in their own distinctive way, will be able to inspire and guide us towards a better, fairer world."

Farm animals can eat insects and algae to prevent deforestation
WWF says alternatives to industrially farmed animal feed must be developed to stop biodiversity loss
Bibi van der Zee The Guardian 5 Oct 17;

Farm animals could be fed on insects and algae, potentially preventing significant amounts of deforestation and water and energy waste, according to environmental campaigners.

“We’re a bit squeamish about eating insects in the UK,” said WWF’s food policy manager Duncan Williamson at the Extinction and Livestock conference in London. “But we can feed them to our animals. We are going to need animal feed for the foreseeable future, but algae and insects are an alternative to the current system.”

Growing and capturing feed for industrially farmed animals – soy, maize, fish – is an inefficient use of the world’s resources, according to a WWF report released for the conference. According to scientist Katherine Richardson, one of 15 experts commissioned by the UN to report on their sustainability goals, we have now broken through four out of nine of the planetary boundaries defined as a precondition to sustainable development “because of agriculture”.

Many corporations believe the public don’t care or know about the problem with feed, said Williamson. “I have lost count of the times I have gone to companies who have said our customers don’t care about feed – it’s so far from what they’re eating. They don’t care about the impacts on biodiversity – they think the fields of England are biodiverse.” But, he pointed out, “the intensive system has a global impact on biodiversity … it’s the number one cause of biodiversity loss.”

Using insects and algae for animal feed would require far less land and resources. One company, Entocycle, makes feed of black soldier flies fed on waste food, while algae can be grown in far smaller areas to a comparative amount of soy and is nutritionally superior.

Work on alternative materials for feeds has been happening for a number of years now, according to Kate Wolfenden of Project X, a WWF offshoot, and alternative feeds are still significantly more expensive than grains and soys and not yet at the volumes required to shift entire industries. But the market is now maturing, and Project X’s Feed-X programme aims to enable 10% of the global industry to be able to commit to procuring alternative sustainable feeds, at scale, by 2020.

But the truth is that a transformation of the entire food system will be necessary, says Richardson. “We are living what might be the most exciting time of human history – a time of great transition,” she told the conference, pointing out that there have been times in the past when we have realised that we are going to have to create rules for dealing with our waste at local, regional and national levels. “We, as a society, are now recognising that we need to manage our resources at the global level.”

Philip Lymbery, the head of Compassion in World Farming, one of the organisers of the conference, had called earlier for a UN convention on food and farming. “Our intention is that this conference will be the start of a global conversation. Scientists warn we are facing a mass extinction event not seen since the dinosaurs. Much of the current biodiversity loss is driven by the way we produce food.”

The conference was partly, he said, held to celebrate the 50th birthday of CIWF. “We do not intend to celebrate our 100th. We intend to end factory farming long before that comes.”

Vast animal-feed crops to satisfy our meat needs are destroying planet
WWF report finds 60% of global biodiversity loss is down to meat-based diets which put huge strain on Earth’s resources
Rebecca Smithers The Guardian 5 Oct 17;

The ongoing global appetite for meat is having a devastating impact on the environment driven by the production of crop-based feed for animals, a new report has warned.

The vast scale of growing crops such as soy to rear chickens, pigs and other animals puts an enormous strain on natural resources leading to the wide-scale loss of land and species, according to the study from the conservation charity WWF.

Intensive and industrial animal farming also results in less nutritious food, it reveals, highlighting that six intensively reared chickens today have the same amount of omega-3 as found in just one chicken in the 1970s.

The study entitled Appetite for Destruction launches on Thursday at the 2017 Extinction and Livestock Conference in London, in conjunction with Compassion in World Farming (CIFW), and warns of the vast amount of land needed to grow the crops used for animal feed and cites some of the world’s most vulnerable areas such as the Amazon, Congo Basin and the Himalayas.

The report and conference come against a backdrop of alarming revelations of industrial farming. Last week a Guardian/ITV investigation showed chicken factory staff in the UK changing crucial food safety information.

Protein-rich soy is now produced in such huge quantities that the average European consumes approximately 61kg each year, largely indirectly by eating animal products such as chicken, pork, salmon, cheese, milk and eggs.

In 2010, the British livestock industry needed an area the size of Yorkshire to produce the soy used in feed. But if global demand for meat grows as expected, the report says, soy production would need to increase by nearly 80% by 2050.

“The world is consuming more animal protein than it needs and this is having a devastating effect on wildlife,” said Duncan Williamson, WWF food policy manager. “A staggering 60% of global biodiversity loss is down to the food we eat. We know a lot of people are aware that a meat-based diet has an impact on water and land, as well as causing greenhouse gas emissions, but few know the biggest issue of all comes from the crop-based feed the animals eat.”

With 23bn chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks and guinea fowl on the planet – more than three per person – the biggest user of crop-based feed globally is poultry. The second largest, with 30% of the world’s feed in 2009, is the pig industry.

In the UK, pork is the second favourite meat after chicken, with each person eating on average 25kg a year in 2015 – nearly the whole recommended yearly intake for all meats. UK nutritional guidelines recommend 45-55g of protein per day, but the average UK consumption is 64-88g, of which 37% is meat and meat products.