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Reduce meat consumption to “1940s era levels”, warn scientists

Posted : 4 February 2014

A report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has warned that hundreds of millions of hectares of land are under threat of degradation because of unsustainable land use, including for the production of meat.

Assessing Global Land Use: Balancing Consumption with Sustainable Supply by the International Resource Panel of the United Nations Environment Programme, looks at global demand for food, plant fibres and biomass fuels, and predicts that up to 849 million hectares of land (an area the size of Brazil) may suffer from soil degradation by 2050 unless there is a change in the way that the land is managed.

Concerned about how much of the food we grow is used to feed animals instead of people, one of the report’s authors, Robert Howarth of Cornell University, said: “One of our key challenges is overusing agricultural land for growing meat”.

“We don’t need to become complete vegetarians, but to put this into context and to help sustain feeding a burgeoning global population, we need to reduce our meat consumption by 60 percent — which is about 1940s era levels.”

The report’s key recommendations include reducing food waste during production and harvesting and tackling food waste at home through education and waste prevention campaigns. The report also calls for programmes, including in schools, to promote healthy, balanced diets with less focus on meat.

Read the report here.

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