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Life and death food choices

In the past killing and eating animals was a matter of life and death. But we have reached a point in history where humankind no longer has to do this out of necessity. And to have any chance of winning the modern day life and death battles against existential threats like pandemics and climate change, behavioural change is a must.

Biodiversity and habitat loss have been widely cited as key factors in increasing the number of pandemics. As natural safety barriers between animals and humans break down due to aggressive human expansion into delicate ecosystems, the transmission of deadly pathogens from animals to humans, called zoonotic diseases, become more common. A situation exacerbated by the illegal trade in – and consumption of – wild animals. In banning the eating of wild animals, China is making the right moves but more action is needed to bring these practices to an end globally.

Efforts also need to be focused on cutting back on the consumption of other meats, often produced in intensive industrial agriculture settings that should scare people every bit as much as the ‘wet markets’ concentrating minds right now. Places where animals live in oppressively crowded, unsanitary conditions, ripe for generating diseases. Yet animal agriculture continues to grow in just about every country worldwide. Which makes suggestions that serious moves are being made to transition to a sustainable future of food sound hollow. 

“Food production is the biggest threat to our planet – 70% of the biodiversity loss, 70% of the fresh water use, 25% of the greenhouse gas emissions come directly from that. Eighty-five per cent of the marine stocks are exploited,” said internationally-renowned agricultural scientist, Dr Howard-Yana Shapiro. To chart a different course, he says: ‘let’s breed plants that are ‘more nutritious, that are higher-yielding, that are resilient to climate change, resistant to pests and disease and water and nutrient sufficient’.

One trend that offers hope is the production and growing popularity of plant-based foods that offer viable alternatives to meat. Currently, nearly half all meat consumption is in Asia and the market is being targeted by Impossible Foods, one of the best known names in plant-based foods. 

Bruce Friedrich, founder of the Good Food Institute, told Innovators Magazine: “We take inspiration from companies like Beyond Meat, and Impossible Foods, companies that have come along and said: our market is not vegetarians, and we don’t care what vegetarians eat, Our market is meat eaters. We want to help create vegetarian meat, plant-based meat that meat-eaters like every bit as much, or even more so, than the meat they are eating right now.”

On his investment support for Beyond Meat, Leonardo DiCaprio said on social media: ‘Beyond Burger uses 99% less water, 93% less land, nearly 50% less energy and generates 90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than it takes to produce one 1/4 lb. U.S. beef burger’. 

Communicating the impact of plant-based options is a huge part of the jigsaw. And Impossible Foods has launched an online Impact Calculator, which ‘shows you how much you reduce your land, water and greenhouse gas footprints by choosing an Impossible Burger instead of a burger from cows’. These tools allow people to better understand the importance of changing their habits. 

“Switching to plant-based meat is a simple, powerful way to address climate change and spare resources like water and land for wildlife,” said Rebekah Moses, who leads Impact Strategy at Impossible Foods. “The Impact Calculator helps people understand how much they are helping protect and restore our planet every time they choose an Impossible Burger instead of a burger from a cow — then they can share their results, raise visibility, and accelerate the urgent shift to a plant-based food system.” 

Read the article by Bruce Friedrich here

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