Biotech industry fights back over reduced meat calls


The SDC report argues that cereal crops currently grown as animal feed could be used to feed humans

BBSRC-funded website backlash against sustainable watchdog’s call to reduce meat consumption

Calls to reduce meat consumption by the Government’s sustainability watchdog have been contradicted by a newly launched science and agribusiness funded website.

A report published today by the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) recommends a reduction in the consumption of meat and dairy in order to free up land for growing crops for direct human consumption.

However, on the same day, a new website claiming to be a forum for debate on 'food security', and funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), was launched, stating: ‘meat production needs to increase by 85 per cent between 2000 and 2030’.

SDC food commissioner Tim Lang said such statements in favour of the intensification of agriculture were misguided.

‘These projections about future meat consumption assume that everyone is going to eat meat like the Americans and the British. That’s a big assumption. Diet is more plastic than that, more malleable.' 
‘There are very powerful forces within what I call Big Science, Big with a capital B, that say that intensification should go up a notch. What they don’t take account of is the huge energy and water resources required,’ said Lang.

Meat arguments

The SDC report argues that cereal crops currently grown as animal feed could be used to feed humans.

‘This is particularly true in South America, where dependence upon soy has resulted in an increase in the price of other staples,’ says the report.

Dr Adam Staines, Science Program Manager for Agri-Food at BBSRC, which funded the food security website, said that there were implications for land use if meat consumption decreased.  

‘One of the challenges in the UK is what we do with the land if there is a reduction in livestock farming. Much of this land is unsuitable for other types of agriculture. Changing to other forms of agriculture might have an unknown impact of actually increasing CO2 emissions,’ said Staines.

He also said that safety, affordability and health had to be considered alongside emissions.

‘Forty per cent of women in the UK are iron deficient. This needs to be considered if people are going to eat less meat,’ he said.

But Food Standards Agency (FSA) guidelines state that the recommended daily intake of iron can be obtained from a range of products including breakfast cereals, green vegetables and wholemeal bread.

Useful links
BBSRC-funded website

Sustainable Development Commission report

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