This weblog post is about food, in an increasingly environmentally stressed world. To begin, there are comments about the food systems pavilion at Cop27, the annual United Nations climate change conference, held at Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, between 2022-11-06 and -20. Most of today’s weblog post looks at both the past and the future of food. The past is symbolized by the cow, and the coke bottle; the future by fermentation vats, and the rewilding of agricultural land.
Food Systems Pavilion
The Food Systems Pavilion offered Cop27 participants 11 days of programming about transforming food systems, as part of climate mitigation, adaptation and resilience. Below is a list of themes. A program booklet is available about the program.
2022-11-06 Enhance resilience to climate and shocks.
2022-11-08 Enable a culture of sustainable, healthy and nutritious diets.
2022-11-09 Increase sustainable investments and financing to build food systems.
2022-11-10 Accelerate innovation and digitalization.
2022-11-11 Boost nature positive production and soil health.
2022-11-12 Scale climate resilient agriculture
2022-11-14 Embrace sustainable water and aquatic blue food diversity for climate smart food systems.
2022-11-15 Champion youth action in food systems.
2022-11-16 Protect and restore nature.
2022-11-17 Transform value chains and develop inclusive markets.
The current food system is broken and unequal: Three billion people can’t afford a healthy diet; over two billion people suffer from micro-nutrient deficiencies; two billion people are overweight; almost five hundred million people are underweight; one third of greenhouse gasses are produced by the current food systems.
Nordic/ Scandinavian approaches were presented on 2022-11-12.
Much of the content in this section, is from George Monbiot (1963 – ), author of Regenesis: Feeding the World without Devouring the Planet (2022) and the Reboot website, where he is quoted as saying: The elephant in the room at Cop27 is the cow. But thankfully this time, there really is a recipe for success. By rebooting our food systems with precision fermentation we can phase out animal agriculture while greatly increasing the amount of protein available for human consumption..
In my daily life, I do not practice the principles found in the reboot manifesto. Currently, it is just not available. However, as a chemical engineering student, I worked with bacteria in fermentation vats. My graduating essay relates to its use, along with genetic engineering, including gene splicing, in the production of antibiotics rather than food. In both cases, the principles are the same. Thus, I have a belief that these can be the foods of the future. Unlike today’s processed foods, that typically remove nutrition, but leave tasty yet empty calories, I have a firm belief that foods based on the use of fermentation vats, can be engineered into nutritious, healthy, tasty foods.
Confession 1: We currently buy milk and eggs directly from local farmers. In addition, we eat cheese, and I drink a type of buttermilk the local dairy – so far – has been unable to produce. However, I have assisted them in a trial production of a substitute. Other animal based products we eat include honey and meat. Of the twenty-one meals we eat weekly, about four of them contain meat: one with fowl (turkey sometimes, but mainly chicken), two with fish (white fish once, salmon once) and one with red meat.
The Reboot Manifesto
[People] are standing on the cusp of a revolution, a food revolution, one unprecedented since the dawn of farming 10,000 years ago. Agriculture today is the largest single cause of biodiversity loss and emits more greenhouse gases than all our cars, planes and ships put together. Most of the damage is caused by livestock farming, which on its own covers 28% of the Earth’s surface, more than all the world’s forests combined. The non-human living world is squeezed to the margins, and wild species have been decimated. By weight, just 4% of the world’s mammals are wild, 36% are humans and 60% are our livestock.
But it no longer has to be this way. Game-changing innovations in precision fermentation and biotech now make a different future possible, one where we no longer have to cruelly exploit animals for food, and where the majority of the land currently used for livestock can be returned to nature, even as the world’s population climbs towards 10 billion and the Global South emerges from poverty.
It’s time to Reboot Food.
The four principles of rebooting food are:
1. Make it plant-based.
2. Brew don’t slaughter. Healthy, whole and varied plant-based foods should be at the centre of everything. Animal farming should be phased out and replaced by identical precision fermentation products wherever possible.
3. Use as little land and ocean as possible, rewild everything else.
4. Open source everything to guarantee a just transition.
High yield, low impact farming must be prioritized to make as much space for nature as possible. Farmers should be paid to rewild the spared land. [I am not convinced that this is the best idea in many jurisdictions, because it would allow the private ownership of what are essentially nature reserves, are prevent access to the land. For the mental health of the population, it is important that there be provisions for a general right of access.] The benefits of the food revolution should be shared with all, with new technologies made open source and corporate concentration actively mitigated.
Precision fermentation allows us to move from farming macro-organisms (cows, sheep, pigs) to farming micro-organisms (yeasts and bacteria). Using genetics, these microorganisms can be programmed to produce exactly the same proteins and fats we currently obtain from animals, powered by clean energy from solar, wind and nuclear [I object to treating nuclear power as a sustainable source of energy, in part because current technology requires the storage of waste products for thousands of years]. This [food production] technology is commercially proven and globally scalable, already producing 99% of insulin and 80% of rennet worldwide.
Protein from precision fermentation is up to 40,900 times [Why not say 40 000? A single digit 4, followed by 4 zeros might even be something people could remember] more land efficient than beef, making it technically feasible to produce the entire world’s protein on an area of land smaller than Greater London [Wikipedia says it occupies 1 569 km2. If one allows it to be 1 600 km2, it could form a square 40 km x 40 km which is about 25 miles x 25 miles = 625 square miles]. Precision fermentation products can supplement a shift to plant-based diets, with everything from non-animal milk, cheese and ice cream to non-fish omega-3s. Many of these products have already reached the market in the United States, and could come to Europe soon. In essence, we are talking about a transition to farm-free foods for everything which is currently only available from livestock. But this revolution won’t happen by accident, and isn’t inevitable. Although billions in venture capital funding is pouring into these new innovations, the scale and speed of the transition needs to be [accelerated] with public money and government support. This manifesto calls for a dramatic shift in government support for food and agriculture, away from subsidising legacy animal industries and towards encouraging delicious and low-cost animal-free foods, while supporting a just transition for farmers and fisherfolk currently in these sectors.
To Reboot Food, governments must:
1. Invest 2.5% of GDP over 10 years into rebooting our food systems.
2. Stop subsidies for animal agriculture, pay farmers a land-based subsidy to rewild and sequester carbon instead.
3. Bring agriculture into the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) so emissions are capped and costed.
4. Subsidize plant-based food at the point of sale to encourage a mass market.
5. Implement a just transition for farming and fishing communities.
6. Set land use reduction and rewilding targets, suspend organic targets until yields match those of conventional agriculture.
7. Limit patents on food innovation to 10 years and discourage corporate control.
8. Legalise gene editing, genetic modification and other new breeding techniques.
9. Make sustainability labelling mandatory.
10. Ban advertising of land- and carbon-intensive animal-based foods.
[Reboot Food] believe[s] that these measures, when combined, will make the food revolution unstoppable and make nutritious and affordable diets accessible to all the world’s people, while at the same time allowing an unprecedented regeneration of natural ecosystems on spared land. It is the single biggest thing we can do to stop and reverse the sixth mass extinction of biodiversity. And it is essential if we are to respect the Paris targets for tackling the climate emergency. The situation is urgent and the time is now. It’s time to Reboot Food.
Propaganda/ information from www.rebootfood.org // www.replanet.ngo .
Comments: While I am not anti-urbanist, I prefer to live in a rural environment, where I can have lots of trees as neighbours. A diverse community of trees improves the neighbourhood, making it a healthier place for people.
The Coke Bottle
Emma Priestland, a coordinator for Break Free From Plastic, a global alliance of organisations and individuals, said: Coca-Cola sponsoring the Cop27 is pure ‘greenwash’. Coca-Cola is one of the world’s biggest users of plastic. Over four years, we’ve found Cola-Cola to be the world’s top plastic polluter in our annual brand audits. It’s astounding that a company so tied to the fossil fuel industry is allowed to sponsor such a vital climate meeting.
Environmental campaigners described the partnership as baffling. At Cop26 in Glasgow in 2021, a petition called for an end to corporate sponsorship of Cop events, starting with the removal of Cola-Cola. Coca-Cola is the world’s biggest plastic polluter. It produces 120 billion throwaway plastic bottles a year. 99% of its plastics are made from fossil fuels. So far, Coca-Cola doesn’t acknowledge that this is a problem. They fail to explain their climate goals, or how they will end their plastic addiction.
Confession 2: I have drunk cola. Since returning to Norway on 2020-03-20, at the start of the pandemic, I have drunk 2 liters of Pepsi, when I was recovering from Covid-19, starting about 2022-09-13. The first sip tasted so terrible, that I vowed I would not repeat the experience, for the remainder of my lifetime. The orange and ginger beer drinks tasted much better.
Today’s assignment: Ahmed Rady, Coca-Cola’s vice-president of operations for north Africa, said: Coca-Cola’s firm belief that working together through meaningful partnerships will create shared opportunities for communities and people around the world and in Egypt. Comment on the greenwashing in the above sentence, especially related to: 1. meaningful partnerships, and 2. shared opportunities.