Electric food – the new sci-fi diet that could save our planet

(The Guardian, 30 Oct 2018) Growing food without plants or animals sounds like science fiction. But it could stop environmental destruction.

It’s not about “them”, it’s about us. The horrific rate of biological annihilation reported this week – 60% of the Earth’s vertebrate wildlife gone since 1970 – is driven primarily by the food industry. Farming and fishing are the major causes of the collapse of both marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Meat – consumed in greater quantities by the rich than by the poor – is the strongest cause of all. We may shake our heads in horror at the clearance of forests, the drainage of wetlands, the slaughter of predators and the massacre of sharks and turtles by fishing fleets, but it is done at our behest.

As the Guardian’s recent report from Argentina reveals, the huge forests of the Gran Chaco are heading towards extermination as they are replaced by deserts of soya beans, almost all of which are used to produce animal feed, particularly for Europe. With Jair Bolsonaro in power in Brazil, deforestation in the Amazon is likely to accelerate, much of it driven by the beef lobby that helped bring him to power. The great forests of Indonesia, such as those in West Papua, are being felled and burned for oil palm at devastating speed.

The most important environmental action we can take is to reduce the area of land and sea used by farming and fishing. This means, above all, switching to a plant-based diet: research published in the journal Science shows that cutting out animal products would reduce the global requirement for farmland by 76%. It would also give us a fair chance of feeding the world. Grass-fed meat, contrary to popular belief, is no alternative: it is an astonishingly wasteful use of vast tracts of land that would otherwise support wildlife and wild ecosystems.

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The Guardian, 30 Oct 2018: Electric food – the new sci-fi diet that could save our planet