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Big Farming Warns Farming Must Change or Risk ‘Destroying the Planet’ | Climate crisis


Food companies and governments must come together now to change global farming practices or risk “destroying the planet”, according to the sponsors of a report by some of the biggest food and agriculture companies released Thursday.

The report, from a task force within the Sustainable Markets Initiative (SMI), a global climate-focused CEO network established by King Charles III, is released days before the start of the Cop27 climate summit. United Nations in Egypt.

Many of the world’s largest food and agriculture companies have championed sustainable farming practices in recent years. Regenerative farming practices, which prioritize reducing greenhouse gas emissions, soil health and water conservation, now cover 15% of farmland.

But the pace of change has been “far too slow”, according to the report, and needs to triple by 2030 for the world to have a chance of keeping temperature rise below 1.5C, a level which, if exceeded, scientists say, will trigger even more devastating climate change on the planet.

The report is signed by Bayer, Mars, McCain Foods, McDonald’s, Mondelez, Olam, PepsiCo, Waitrose and others. They represent a powerful political and commercial force, impacting the food supply chain around the world. They are also, critics say, among the main culprits in climate mismanagement, with one calling the report ‘smoke and mirrors’ and unlikely to tackle the real crisis.

Food production is responsible for a third of all the planet-warming gases emitted by human activity and a number of signatories have been accused of environmental harm and “greenwashing”. Activist Greta Thunberg is boycotting Cop this year after calling the global summit a public relations stunt “to get leaders and people in power to get attention”.

“We are at a critical tipping point where something needs to be done,” said task force chair and outgoing Mars CEO Grant Reid. “The interconnection between human health and planetary health is more evident than ever.” Big food companies and agriculture must play a big role in changing that, Reid said. “It won’t be easy, but we have to make it work,” he said.

Agriculture is the largest industry in the world. Pastures and croplands occupy about 50% of the planet’s habitable land and use about 70% of freshwater supplies. The climate crisis is challenging industry across the world, but the group’s call for change comes as the industry – which employs 1 billion people – faces supply chain issues in the wake of the pandemic coronavirus and soaring inflation. It also comes amid growing skepticism about corporate promises of change that have contributed to climate change.

These current problems should not overshadow the need for change, argues the report. “With the inflationary environment and widespread supply chain disruption, it would be easy to reduce our focus on the longer-term challenge of scaling regenerative agriculture. “is vital to maintain a sense of urgency. We must act now to avoid more acute crises in the future,” write its authors.

Sunny George Verghese, Managing Director of Olam, one of the world’s largest suppliers of cocoa beans, coffee, cotton and rice, said: “We cannot continue to produce and consume food, feed and fiber like we do today, unless we don’t mind destroying the planet.

“The only way out for us is to move to a more resilient food system that will allow us to meet the needs of a growing population without the resource intensity we have today.”

The report studied three food crops, potato, rice and wheat, and made policy recommendations that it will present at COP27.

Members of the task force are working to make the short-term economic case for change more attractive to farmers. “It’s just not compelling enough for the average farmer,” Reid said. More broadly, the report argues that industry and government must also do more to close the knowledge gap and ensure farmers are following best practices. Third, all parties involved in the agricultural industry, from farmers and food producers to government, banks and insurers, must align to encourage a shift to more sustainable practices.

“It implies changes for all actors, including government, private, public and other companies. No player can do it alone, it must be a collaboration of the will. What needs to happen now is action and delivery,” Reid said.

Over the next six months, the group will assess how it can extend the work of the task force with the aim of establishing a common set of metrics to measure environmental outcomes, establishing a credible system of payments to farmers for environmental outcomes, ease the cost of farmers transitioning to sustainable practices, ensuring that government policy rewards farmers for greening their business and encouraging the sourcing of crops from particular areas converting to regenerative agriculture.

Devlin Kuyek, a researcher at GRAIN, a nonprofit that supports small-scale farmers, said it’s getting harder and harder for big agriculture and food companies to ignore climate change. “But I don’t think any of these companies – let’s say a McDonalds – have committed to reducing sales of highly polluting products. I don’t think PepsiCo will say the world doesn’t need Pepsi.

Kuyek pointed out that Yara, another signatory to the report, is the world’s largest supplier of nitrogen-based fertilizers, “which are responsible for one out of every 40 tonnes of greenhouse gases emitted every year.”

“It’s quite dishonest,” Kuyek said. “Small, local food systems still feed most people on the planet and the real threat is that the industrial system grows at the expense of the truly sustainable system. Corporations are creating a bit of smoke and mirrors here, suggesting they are doing part of the solution when inevitably they are part of the problem.

Given the controversial stories of some of the companies involved in the report, Verghese said he expected criticism and scrutiny. “All businesses must withstand the scrutiny of being attacked if there is genuine greenwashing. There is no place to hide,” he said. Olam, we’re very clear about our goals, we’ve had the confidence to make those goals public, we’ve all made progress on the path to sustainability, it’s not that we haven’t made mistakes in the process. past, but as we have improved in this area, we are ready to come under scrutiny.

Both Reid and Verghese said the scale of the problems facing the world’s food supply cannot be underestimated, but more and more governments and businesses are increasingly convinced of the need to urgent change. “I believe changes can be made,” Verghese said. “I’m optimistic. The fact that these kinds of coalitions are emerging is very positive. We are all otherwise very strong rivals and competitors. We hate each other’s guts, we don’t agree on anything except in the event of a huge crisis. Everyone recognizes that there is a huge crisis. We have to come together.

theguardian Gt

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