Green transformation of agri-food systems “at the heart of COP27 agenda”
07 Nov 2022 --- Yesterday saw the start of COP27 which promises to put the green transition, especially in relation to food, at the front and center of global talks. But, so much has already been said, so many targets have been set and are yet to materialize, accelerating commitments towards eating for the health of people and the planet needs to be more than just words. Setting targets to transition toward sustainable food systems is a vital step for the world if the climate crisis is to be tackled properly.
Global leaders have descended on Egypt targeting increased food insecurity and cost of living crises that have been the major challenges so far in 2022.
“In this adverse context, some countries have begun to stall or reverse climate policies and doubled down on fossil fuel use,” flags the UN.
In times of trouble, conflict and war, climate policies can be pushed to the bottom of the agenda - and this is the concern of many attending COP27.
Meanwhile, there is a food space to bring public and private players together to discuss solutions to improve the food value chain.
The Pavilion will put the transformation of agri-food systems “at the heart of the COP agenda for the first time,” flags FAO. At a time when the UN organization highlights the impact of COVID-19, pressures from the climate crisis, high energy and fertilizer prices and protracted conflicts that disrupt supply chains are increasing global food insecurity, especially for the most vulnerable.
Cutting greenhouse gasses
COP27 wants to build on the Paris Agreement target to cut emissions by 45% by 2030, compared to 2030, limiting temperatures increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, which the international body flags as key to avoiding frequent and severe droughts, heatwaves and rainfall, which could devastate crops.
“Climate change impacts, both extreme weather and slow-onset events, have impacted several sectors of the national economies and activities, in particular agriculture and food production,” explain COP27 summit documents on food security.
Plant-based to meet targets
International plant-based food groups are urging leaders at the event to set clear and tangible targets to transition toward sustainable food systems.
“Plant-based foods and food systems represent an opportunity to innovate and optimize the way we feed the world. As world leaders gather to discuss climate solutions at COP27, it is essential that there are clear targets identified to aid in global transitions toward plant-based food systems,” says Rachel Dreskin, CEO of the US Plant Based Foods Association.
“Plant-based foods are a multi-problem solution, be it sustainability, land degradation, biodiversity loss, climate change, health hazards and ethical concerns,” adds Sanjay Sethi, executive director at the Plant Based Industry Association in India.
The organizations highlight how the global food system is responsible for “over 30% of greenhouse gas emissions,” with 57% coming from the meat and dairy industry and crops for feed.
Food security on the table
The international plant-based organizations commend COP27 organizers for adding a “Food Security” meeting to the schedule.
In the food security meeting, global leaders will discuss how to improve the productivity of crops while lowering emissions and enhancing the resilience of food production against extreme weather events.
Furthermore, authorities will talk about reducing food loss across all stages of the food chain, on how to lower meat consumption, develop alternatives and spur the shift toward more native plants, crops and grains. This in turn would reduce the reliance on wheat, maize, rice and potatoes and increase the resilience of crops.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that agricultural land productivity is down 21% compared to a scenario with no climate change, with another 17% drop expected by 2050 in the worst temperature-raising scenario.
With agricultural land losing productivity, regenerative farming can help with land losing productivity.
“With the world’s leading food and farming businesses launching an action plan, regenerative farming has “to scale three times faster to address the threat to a resilient and sustainable food supply presented by climate change and biodiversity loss,” says the Sustainable Markets Initiative Agribusiness Task Force.
The Task Force comprises executives from Bayer, HowGood, Indigo Agriculture, Mars, McCain Foods, McDonald’s, Mondelez, Olam, PepsiCo, Sustainable Food Trust, Waitrose & Partners and Yara International.
Furthermore, international plant-based organizations urge authorities to implement direct financial support to farmers moving toward more sustainable crops for direct human consumption, educating citizens about plant-based foods via public campaigns, labeling requirements that encourage plant-based foods and integrating plant-based foods in schools and hospitals.
Additionally, more economic incentives could be provided to facilitate access to more affordable plant-based products and allocate funds on alternative foods research.
The focus on plant-based eating contributing to the overall green transition in food is in line with Innova Market Insights' Top Ten Trend for 2023, Plant-Based: Unlocking a New Narrative.
Singapore GOOD Meat will serve its cultivated chicken to COP27 to showcase the potential of food innovation in the area to tackle climate change.
The company flags that other than “delicious,” they hope the guests at COP27 find the cultivated chicken meals “thought-provoking.”
“There is no better place to launch our next version than right here at the world’s most consequential climate change gathering,” says Josh Tetrick, co-founder and CEO of Eat Just.
GOOD Meat polled 2,000 consumers in six Middle East countries finding that a “vast majority of respondents” would purchase cultivated meat with the key conditions that it was Halal, sold at comparable cost and tasted similar to traditional meat.
Singapore spearheads cultivated movement
COP27 could be the launching platform for cultivated foods’ regulatory approval across continents.
“Singapore was the first country to allow the sale of meat made without tearing down a single forest or displacing an animal’s habitat, and we look forward to other countries following in their footsteps,” explains Tetrick.
Dutch Mosa Meat is diversifying into the Asian country, finding a local Singaporean ally – Esco Aster – to bring its cell-based meat to market, while approval to commercialize in Europe is not quite there yet.
Korean cell-based shrimp manufacturer CellMEAT detailed its ambition to bring its flagship Dokdo cell-based shrimp to markets in South Korea, the US and Singapore by 2024. With the company working with the national government to give cultivated foods the green light.
Israeli cell-based player Forsea told FoodIngredientsFirst, last month, that the US will grant approvals for cultivated foods in 2023 or 2024. The company is on track to inaugurate its pilot plant in Israel in 2023.
By Marc Cervera
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