Wednesday, September 08, 2021

The Capitalist Food System


Whether an individual wishes to become a vegetarian-vegan or remain an eater of meat will be the personal decision of that person. But the food production system serving whatever the diet of society chooses is a social question and it will be one that even in a socialist society will be discussed and debated. 

One thing we can be sure of though, is that the main agenda will not be which is the most profitable and least costly but that what we produce to eat is both healthy for people and the planet.

"Industrial meat farming is fanning the flames of climate crisis and biodiversity collapse while threatening the health of farmers, workers, and consumers—the evidence is resounding," said Stanka Becheva, food and agriculture campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe.

Meat production is expected to increase by another 40 million tonnes a year by 2029, which would take the total output to around 366 million tonnes a year.

Meat Atlas 2021 (pdf) by Friends of the Earth Europe, its German arm Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz, and the Berlin-based Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, says the food sector is responsible for 21% to 37% of planet-heating emissions, over half of which comes from industrial animal farming. The report explains, "The food and farming sector in industrialized countries, which accounts for about one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, is far from doing its fair share to reduce them."

Its findings from 2018 is that "just five meat-and-milk giants, JBS, Tyson, Cargill, Dairy Farmers of America, and Fonterra, produce more combined emissions per year than major oil players like Exxon, Shell, or BP. Taken together, 20 livestock firms are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than Germany, Britain, or France."

More than 2,500 investment banks, private banks, and pension funds poured $478 billion into meat and dairy firms from 2015 to 2020, emphasizing that BlackRock, Capital Group, Vanguard, and the Norwegian government pension fund are among the top investors.

The report explains, "the impacts of industrial-scale agriculture are yet to be regulated across financial and legal platforms."

  • More than one billion people around the world earn their living by keeping livestock. Traditional and nature-friendly animal husbandry is coming under pressure from industrialized agriculture.
  • Almost two-thirds of the world's 600 million poor livestock keepers are women. They face disadvantages because they have limited access to land, services, and farm ownership.
  • Conflicts over land are on the rise, in part because of industrial meat production. More and more people are being killed for defending the right to land.
  • The use of antibiotics in animal husbandry is resulting in more and more microbial resistance. This threatens the effectiveness of antibiotics, one of the most important types of treatment in human medicine.
  • The leading producers of fodder crops are among the largest users of pesticides—which contaminate groundwater and harm biodiversity.
, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung president Barbara Unmüßig pointed out  that "the economic interests of the meat industry, which is worth billions, and the refusal of politicians to reform strategically and coherently are keeping us on a tortuous path overstretching the ecological limits of the planet," Unmüßig warned that "the way things are, we will need to reduce meat production by half."

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