Henry Dimbleby, Food Adviser for the UK government, criticized the newly published food strategy for England.
According to Dimbleby, environmentalists have criticized the blueprint that was intended to address a variety of health and environmental issues.
Meat Consumption and Greenhouse Gas
Much of the concern is about what is not included, such as steps to shift people’s diets away from meat that is intensive in greenhouse gases.
Instead of a “meat tax,” Dimbleby proposed a reduction in meat consumption by 30% over ten years, as well as behavioral nudges.
However, there is no mention of reducing meat consumption in the strategy.
It does, however, include plans for randomized control trials held over the next three years to generate evidence that could eventually lead to long-term dietary policies.
As a result, any encouragement to eat less meat is still a long way off.
Alternative proteins are mentioned briefly, but no new money, policies, or details on how people can be encouraged to switch to them are promised.
Instead, the strategy focuses on providing livestock with additives to reduce methane emissions.
According to Jamie Newbold, an expert on additives from Rural College in Scotland, there is evidence that additives reduce emissions.
Nevertheless, he claimed that drastic cuts will necessitate a behavior change, implying that we will need to eat less meat. And, he claimed, getting additives into animals will be difficult because nearly all of England’s cows and sheep graze in fields.
The strategy has been criticized for lacking plans to help the environment.
Dimbleby proposed £500 million to £700 million in annual environmental agricultural subsidies to help nature recover and store carbon on farmland.
The government has established a Landscape Recovery scheme to support such projects, and environment secretary George Eustice told New Scientist that expanding woodland cover and restoring peatlands will be a one way to achieve UK’s net-zero goals.
Nonetheless, the government announced a week ago that the scheme’s payments would be capped at £50 million over the next three years.
The Wildlife Trusts’ Barnaby Coupe, a non-profit organization, is concerned that the scheme has been “watered down.”
The Food Strategy for England
The strategy promises a land-use framework next year, balancing competing needs, such as the independent Climate Change Committee’s recommendation that a fifth of farmland is used for carbon storage rather than food production.
Although an early excerpt from the strategy suggested that there is no need to reduce food production to achieve broader environmental goals, the final published version pledged to keep domestic production at current levels.
The leaked version also impliedly defended the Landscape Recovery payment cap, claiming that being led by farmer demand was preferable to a fixed and inflexible allocation of funds, a part which was later removed.
Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers’ Union, said that she was delighted to see the funding change for Landscape Recovery.
She went on to say that the union was concerned that 33% of the budget for farming subsidies was going to less than 5% of the land area.
She also pointed out that the strategy is missing information on how farmers will deal with rising costs.
There is talk of looking into more organic-based fertilizers elsewhere, but nothing concrete about what to do about fossil-fuel-based fertilizers, which are becoming increasingly expensive and can pollute the air and water.
£270 million has been set aside for research and development, covering everything from carbon storage to gene-edited crops and automated robotics to help horticulture deal with labor shortages.
The government also stated that it will consider requiring large corporations to report on greenhouse gas emissions generated when people eat and drink.
Related article: A Focus on Sustainability: A Diet for More Ethical Consumption
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