Many socialists have drawn attention to the dietary habits of people in contributing to global warming, a pattern of food consumption that is encouraged by the profit needs of the capitalist food production system. The damage done to the environment by a predominantly is highlighted in a new report.
The global production of food is responsible for a third of all planet-heating gases emitted by human activity, with the use of animals for meat causing twice the pollution of producing plant-based foods, a major new study published in Nature Food has found.
The entire system of food production, such as the use of farming machinery, spraying of fertilizer and transportation of products, causes 17.3bn metric tonnes of greenhouse gases a year, according to the research. This enormous release of gases that fuel the climate crisis is more than double the entire emissions of the US and represents 35% of all global emissions, researchers said.
“The emissions are at the higher end of what we expected, it was a little bit of a surprise,” said Atul Jain, a climate scientist at the University of Illinois and co-author of the paper. “This study shows the entire cycle of the food production system, and policymakers may want to use the results to think about how to control greenhouse gas emissions.”
The raising of animals for food is far worse for the climate than growing and processing fruits and vegetables for people to eat, the research found, confirming previous findings on the outsized impact that meat production, particularly beef, has on the environment.
The use of cows, pigs and other animals for food, as well as livestock feed, is responsible for 57% of all food production emissions, the research found, with 29% coming from the cultivation of plant-based foods. The rest comes from other uses of land, such as cotton or rubber. Beef alone accounts for a quarter of emissions produced by raising and growing food.
The majority of all the world’s cropland is used to feed livestock, rather than people.
Xiaoming Xu, another University of Illinois researcher and the lead author of the paper, explained, “To produce more meat you need to feed the animals more, which then generates more emissions. You need more biomass to feed animals in order to get the same amount of calories. It isn’t very efficient.”
To produce 1kg of wheat, 2.5kg of greenhouse gases are emitted. A single kilo of beef, meanwhile, creates 70kg of emissions.
Socialists do not desire to impose strict vegetarianism or veganism upon people but our view of how life will be in a future socialist society is that people will generally adopt a flexitarian diet, a greatly reduced intake of meat.