While the meat industry’s negative impacts on the environment have proved troublesome for some time, an assembly of scientists from various European research institutes have released a thorough analysis of the Earth’s food system that shows if farming practices and food trends continue unchecked, the planet’s capabilities of feeding the global population will be decimated within the coming decades, and global warming will not be able to stay under 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Greenhouse gas emissions, land and water consumption, deforestation, biodiversity loss and aquatic dead zones are the central burdens of agriculture evaluated by experts. However, this year’s research study determined a new problem — food supply — to be the most concerning of all. With a booming population that is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, the environmental damages are enough that widespread food insecurity is knocking on our door.

Related: Look out, meat industry – flexitarianism is on the rise

“It is pretty shocking,” said Marco Springmann, lead researcher from the University of Oxford. “We are really risking the sustainability of the whole system.”

The team examined precise data from every country to assemble the most comprehensive assessment of food production and global environment to date. Their diagnosis? Surviving within environmental limits requires a drastic reduction in meat consumption.

“Feeding a world population of 10 billion is possible, but only if we change the way we eat and the way we produce food,” explained Professor Johan Rockström from Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “Greening the food sector or eating up our planet: this is what is on the menu today.” While the problem requires multi-dimensional confrontation from technological, governmental and social standpoints, the experts are encouraging dietary changes on an individual level.

bowl of chickpeas

The study recommends an astounding 90 percent reduction in meat consumption and a 60 percent cut in milk consumption for people in countries such as the U.S. and U.K., as well as the adoption of more sustainable farming practices, in order to keep temperature rise under control. “There is no magic bullet, but dietary and technological [farming] change are the two essential things, and hopefully they can be complemented by reduction in food loss and waste,” Springmann said.

Calling it the “flexitarian” diet, the researchers recommended a surge in bean, pulse, nut and seed consumption to replace the standard meat intake. Taking the average world citizen, the diet stresses a 75 percent cut in beef, a 90 percent cut in pork and a 50 percent cut in egg consumption to halve livestock emissions and help the planet return to sustainable levels.

“Ultimately, we live on a finite planet, with finite resources,” said University of Leeds professor Tim Benton on the study, in which he did not take part. “It is a fiction to imagine there is a technological solution allowing us to produce as much food as we might ever want, allowing us to overeat and throw food away.”

+ Nature

Via The Guardian

Images via Andrik Langfield and Deryn Macey