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More needed for sustainable food production

July 29th, 2016 5:35 PM

By Southern Star Team

Fintan Kelly, An Taisce.

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THE Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine has called for more to be done to ensure Irish agriculture remains at the very top when it comes to sustainable food production, even though An Taisce maintains that ‘Irish agriculture is neither climate-smart nor sustainable.’

Speaking at the launch of the Institute of International & European Affairs (IIEA-RDS) report into Climate-Smart Agriculture, Minster Creed said: ‘Our road to a low-carbon economy in Ireland includes an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, which does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production.’

Minister Creed congratulated the IIEA and the RDS for hosting a very successful series of talks and workshops under the Leadership Forum on Climate Smart Agriculture which led to this report.

‘We have a climate efficient agriculture sector, but more needs to be done to ensure that we are, and remain, the most sustainable producer in the world of milk, beef and other agri-food products,’ the Minister continued.

However, An Taisce’s Natural Environment Officer, Fintan Kelly is calling for the government to transition towards producing far healthier food with far lower climate emissions. Mr Kelly said that the IIEA-RDS report on ‘climate-smart agriculture’ is at odd with current government policy.

This report makes it clear that a healthy planet requires a shift away from large-scale red meat and dairy production and consumption and also that a healthy diet means consuming far less of highly climate-polluting and land-intensive foods such as beef and sheepmeat. Unfortunately, government policy is focused in exactly the opposite direction to this report’s analysis by programmes that increase climate emissions and detract from food security, environmental integrity and public health,’ Mr Kelly said.

Overall, current Irish agriculture is neither climate-smart nor sustainable according to Mr Kelly. ‘A different food future is possible, one that supports farmers to produce more food and that genuinely addresses food security with far lower impacts on climate and the environment. 

A rapid transition, away from large scale livestock production, is needed toward more mixed farming with high nature value grazing, higher value-added outputs in specialised areas where markets welcome extensive rather than intensive production systems, and increased native forestry.’

Mr Kelly continued: ‘Ireland’s agriculture would then really begin to cut emissions and deliver for healthy diets. Farmers, the public and the environment that sustains us would benefit greatly from this change.’

The goal of Leadership Forum on Climate-Smart Agriculture was to promote awareness and adoption of climate-smart agricultural policies and practices in Ireland, and to establish Ireland as a climate-smart leader internationally. Discussions focussed on new policies, technologies, practices, and financial frameworks which can be deployed in response to emerging challenges. 

 

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