Commission Calls for Global Agricultural Revolution

A small farm on top of a mall on Singapore’s Orchard Road  Photo: Rina Chandran, Thomson Reuters Foundation

As if we needed another reason to eat right, a new study published Wednesday found that climate mitigation and human health are deeply intertwined. According to a global commission convened by the prestigious medical journal The Lancet, In order to meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stabilize the climate, the world needs a “comprehensive shift” in its diet. The Commission recommended that we decrease our consumption of unhealthy foods (such as red meat, sugar, and refined grains), which would both provide major health benefits, and at the same time increase the likelihood of attaining the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

What does this food revolution look like?  The authors call for:

  • cutting meat consumption in half,
  • cutting food waste by half, and
  • transforming the agricultural system into a powerful carbon sink by swapping resource-intensive farming methods for those that regenerate soil and limit fertilizer demand.

Inside Climate News reported that the report concludes that altering the way we grow food can reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent in 2050, and switching to a plant-based diet could reduce agricultural emissions by up to 80 percent more.

In Singapore, Thompson Reuters Foundation News reports that they are already beginning to do just that — a new trend in urban agriculture is to site hydroponic farms on top of shopping malls.  Agriculture is not a major sector of the economy there, and food security is a concern — the country imports most of its food.  So they are now growing leafy greens and herbs in racks on top of one of the city’s largest malls.  Urban agriculture currently produces as much as 180 million metric tonnes of food a year – up to 10 percent of the global output, which is likely to grow given urbanization trends.

Why This Matters:  As the Singapore urban farm demonstrates, the global revolution in agriculture is beginning, but like many climate-mitigating activities, it’s not happening fast enough.  if changing our diets to reduce meat consumption can also make us healthier, it seems like a policy no-brainer to accelerate the revolution.  Meatless Monday to Wednesday?  According to Inside Climate News, in the last round of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines development process, an advisory committee considered recommending a reduction in meat consumption, but under pressure from the meat industry, that advice was dropped.

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