Everything points to it: meat-heavy diets are grinding up global land resources and threatening both human health (such as by increasing cancer rates) and global biodiversity, directly and indirectly.
Mighty Earth and Fern recently published The Avoidable Crisis, an investigation into the soy produced in Argentina and Paraguay which is entering Europe to stoke the meat industry. The EU annually imports 36 million tonnes of soya grown on 15 million hectares of land (mostly in Latin America), to feed its livestock. Beyond the environmental devastation, the investigation found massive public health impacts on farmers and surrounding communities from the herbicides used on vast monoculture soy fields. NGOs call on the EU to regulate soya imports to require transparency and traceability in companies’ supply chains, and to ensure that agricultural commodities are free from deforestation and negative social impacts. NGOs also ask the EU to seize the opportunity of ongoing reform of the Common Agricultural Policy to diversify protein production, including meat alternatives, and support the transition towards agro-ecological practices that benefit farmers and improve soils.
In a similar vein, MEPs voted in the Agriculture Committee on 20 March 2018 a strategy to promote protein crops in Europe. In a welcome move, the protein report acknowledged the social consequences of intensive soya production, such as land-grabbing, human rights abuses and forced expulsions, as well as “contamination with pesticides, soil erosion, water depletion and deforestation leading to a devastating loss of biodiversity”. MEPs called for coherent EU agricultural, trade and energy policies to make protein crops, especially soya, economically viable in the EU and neighbouring countries; they advocate a shift from input-intensive crop monocultures within and outside the EU towards diversified agro-ecological systems.
Getting that far wasn’t easy: the vote – twice postponed because of controversies surrounding proposed amendments on meat consumption and production (FW 233) – passed with 34 compromise amendments. While MEPs could not agree to recognise that high meat consumption and industrialised production drives soya imports, Greenpeace launched a campaign calling for less and better meat.
It is hoped that, prior to the plenary vote in mid-April, MEPs will choose to turn their protein report into a landmark turning-point by tackling the remaining problem areas: they must devise a strategy to lower meat production and consumption and ensure that the purpose of setting aside ‘ecological focus areas’ is not defeated by re-opening them to herbicide use in the name of soya production.