The Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) report – Setting the Table: Advice to Government on Priority Elements of Sustainable Diets – warned earlier in December that our intake of meat, dairy and processed food needed to decrease significantly in order to avoid increasing poor health, including cancer and obesity.
But a new website launched on the same day as the report challenged the conclusions of the SDC, the Government’s independent advisory body on sustainability, that land would be better used growing crops for consumption by humans rather than livestock.
www.foodsecurity.ac.uk is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), with the stated aim of “explor[ing] the issues around the looming challenge of feeding a global population predicted to reach 9bn by 2050, and the world-class UK research already underway to help avert a potential crisis”.
One way to help avert a food crisis would be to give less land over to meat production, as recommended by the SDC, but the BBSRC front page contained the claim that: “meat production needs to increase 85 per cent between 2000 and 2030” in order to meet the demands of a growing population. It now trumpets the fact that a sixth of the world’s population are undernourished, and that cereal production needs to increase 50 per cent by 2030 – with no mention of the swathes of land that are used to raise livestock instead of growing crops and vegetables for humans.
“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,” said SDC food commissioner Tim Lang. “Diet is more plastic than that, more malleable.” He went on to warn about “powerful forces within what I call Big Science that say intensification should go up a notch”, ignoring the effect on water and energy resources.
Powerful and well-funded organisations such as BBSRC have a vested interest in seeing meat and livestock production increase, whatever the cost to the people and planet. When it comes to swallowing any purportedly “independent” information, always read the label!