My View: Food for Thought
Representatives from 192 countries gathered last week at the United Nations Climate Summit, COP24, to discuss and adopt implementation guidelines to meet the 2015 Paris Agreement.
As they engage in negotiations, it's critical that leaders consider all of the factors that contribute to the climate crisis — including the significant greenhouse gas emissions of food production. That consideration should begin with the food on their own plates, and extend to policies and procedures to reduce food's contribution to our climate woes.
Our food systems generate up to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, with livestock production alone responsible for 14.5 percent of global anthropogenic emissions. If we continue under a "business as usual" scenario, emissions from factory farms and other industrialized agriculture could put us over a critical climate threshold, where there's no turning back. If climate leaders overlook food production, they will hobble our ability to meet our shared emissions goals, and ironically, what is fueling our bodies could also fuel the planet's ultimate demise.
There's nowhere that message needs to be heard louder than the halls of the U.S. Congress. Just last week, Congress passed a final Farm Bill that does nothing to address this very issue. Instead of helping ranchers and farmers tackle this crisis, Senate and House Agriculture Committees wrote a five-year bill that continues to treat animals as commodities. Factory farmed animals produce significant greenhouse gas emissions; they require massive amounts of natural resources to produce and are transported in fossil fuel vehicles across the world to people's plates. By doing nothing new with this Farm Bill, we are locked into subsidizing industrialized meat production, cutting corners on environmental and animal welfare controls, and failing to rein in methane pollution to curb emissions.
We need national and global policies that will reduce our reliance on industrial meat from factory farms and focus instead on products from responsibly managed farms as well as plant-based alternatives. As an alternative to the Farm Bill, the Food and Farm Act (H.R. 4425) proposed reforms that better serve people, animals, and the planet. We should be prioritizing the tools that give farmers and ranchers the ability to transition to more sustainable and humane methods of food production, and doing what's right for both our bodies and our environment.
We need to empower farmers, ranchers, and consumers to make changes that will benefit all. From Poland to Washington, D.C. to every single dinner table across America, our climate conversations must emphasize the role of food. There is no time to waste.
Erin Eberle is the director of engagement for Farm Forward. She can be reached via their website at: farmforward.com