Switching to lab-produced artificial foods, as proposed by George Monbiot in his documentary Apocalypse Cow on Channel 4, is not the answer either to providing healthy nutrition to a growing global population or addressing climate change, according to Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) Chief Executive Gwyn Howells.
In the programme, environmental campaigner and author George Monbiot proposes ending agriculture as we know it, turning vast tracts of land over to forestry, and depending on emerging technologies such as creating protein from bacteria and producing lab-grown ‘meat’ from stem cells to produce food.
However, the programme has been criticised for providing an unrealistic remedy for climate change which is at odds with mainstream opinion, and of focusing on the food sector while neglecting the role of the largest producers of greenhouse gases such as transport and industry.
Gwyn Howells said, “I doubt that many people will share the presenter’s enthusiasm for switching to processed foods mass-produced from bacteria and stem cells in laboratories. The programme also failed to question the wildly optimistic claims that are made about the potential of this technology, its cost, how much energy it would consume, and how quickly and safely it could be developed.
“George Monbiot’s proposal is unlikely to be an effective response to climate change and the challenge of feeding a growing world population. It takes aim at the wrong target, namely agriculture, which produces fewer emissions than transport, industry and energy generation.
“Wholesale re-forestation of productive agricultural land is questionable according to international studies such as the IPCC Climate Change and Land report, which warn that such a response risks global food security, and urges governments to take advantage of the potential of grassland to sequester carbon as reforestation could take decades to produce net benefits.
“Sustainable forms of agriculture offer more immediate and realistic solutions to mitigating climate change. Wales, with its overwhelmingly non-intensive, grass-fed beef and sheep sector, is ready to lead the way in responsible and sustainable farming.”