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'We can feed the world a healthy diet using nature-friendly farming'

Sébastien Treyer, executive director of IDDRI, said biodiversity should be the main focus, with climate change second.

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‘Sustainable intensification’ misses the point, say scientists

Reducing food production by 35 per cent, changing our diets and expanding grasslands with ruminants on, guarantees a more sustainable food and farming future for Europe than ‘producing more with less’, say French scientists.

 

The hefty piece of research done by IDDRI, an independent policy research institute, and funded by the French government, found that a move to agro-ecology could produce enough food to feed Europe, improve biodiversity and tackle climate change.

 

The scientists proposed a vision for agro-ecology across Europe by 2050, which included; abandoning pesticides and synthetic fertilisers; expanding natural grasslands with grazing livestock; increasing agro-ecological infrastructures such as hedges, woodland and ponds; and reducing consumption of livestock products while increasing fruit and vegetables.

 

Despite a 35 per cent reduction in production compared to 2010, IDDRI found that this scenario would meet Europe’s food needs, maintain export capacity for cereals and dairy, lower green-house-gas emissions by 45 per cent, and help restore biodiversity.


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Sébastien Treyer, executive director of IDDRI, said biodiversity should be the main focus, with climate change second.

 

He criticised sustainable intensification and ‘climate smart’ agriculture, which are based on increasing efficiencies per output, saying they suffered from several ‘blind spots’ that would not prevent ecological collapse.

 

Decisions

He pointed to the common claim that cattle and sheep should be eliminated, saying that while animal production should be reduced, extensive livestock grazing systems played a key role in biodiversity, water quality, and fertilisation.

 

Farmers and rural communities needed support to transition, and a host of policies that cut across diet, health and retail would be needed, he added.

 

“The decisions for transitioning need to be taken in the next 10 years,” said Mr Treyer. “And that is drastic, because we might take other decisions.”

Joanna Lewis, policy and strategy director at the Soil Association said: “We can feed the world a healthy diet using nature-friendly farming.

 

“We are failing to join the dots between the climate crisis, the nature crisis and the dietary health crisis – and by not doing so we are risking the health of people and planet. A Ten-Year Transition to Agroecology presents a huge opportunity – but we must act now.”

 

Earlier this year the the UN called for governments to wake up to biodiversity loss, and to give it equal weighting with climate change in farming and land use policy.

 

IDDR presented at lecture in London in memory of Peter Melchett, former policy director at the Soil Association, a campaigner and organic farmer.

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