Is there any relation between global warming and the foods consumed by human beings? It is known that agriculture and animal breeding contributes significantly to green house gas emission but hitherto food has been a "holy cow' not considered for any action that can ameliorate carbon emission to any significant extent. How ever a few concerned groups of activists want a drastic moderation of the diet in many western countries which are meat-centric so that emission reduction targets being committed by them can be met with minimum pain. Here is a take on this important issue.
"According to the Livewell report released by wildlife charity WWF and the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, red and white meat are "hotspots" for environmental impact. Latest figures showed the UK diet currently includes around 16% meat. The Livewell 2020 regime would also involve eating more fruit, vegetables and cereal, and less processed products to reduce the environmental impact of the food industry. Authors of the report said the low-carbon diet, which still allows for chocolate, crisps and chips, would cost £28.40 per person per week compared with an average spend of £32.12 per person in 2009. It said: "With increasing recognition of the environmental impact of food and drink, future food policy and dietary advice need to go beyond the traditional focus on nutrient recommendations for health to include wider issues of sustainability." As well as a small percentage of meat, the Livewell 2020 diet also includes 35% fruit and vegetables, 29% bread, pasta, rice and potatoes and 15% dairy products".
"A seven-day sample menu included a breakfast of high-fibre cereal with semi-skimmed milk, wholemeal sandwiches for lunch and dishes such as chicken curry and rice, macaroni cheese and chilli beef tortillas for dinner. The report also said it was possible to reach the 2050 target of 70% less greenhouse emissions through a more limited diet. Colin Butfield, WWF's head of campaigns, said: "If we want to protect the species and forests that are at the heart of WWF's work, then we have to fundamentally change our food system. "Today's report gives a picture of a way of eating that is good for the planet and good for your health too. For some, it might even be cheaper. "This is not a radical proposal – it's a diet that contains meat or fish every day and that includes everything from chicken curry to macaroni cheese. "The debate on the environmental impacts of food has often been polarised around meat-eating versus vegetarianism. This is unhelpful".
In a country like the UK where average consumption of meat through the diet constitutes 16%, aspiring to bring it down to 4% may be too much to ask for. Nevertheless the very fact that food is recognized as a villain in carbon emission is a welcome development. Also praise worthy is the realization that food has connotations beyond nutrition and human health and the fact that the above group has been able to come out with an equally nutritious diet with just 4% meat speaks well about the awareness of the problem that confronts humanity to day. It may be recalled that some western critics had blamed developing countries with millions of smoke belching choolas (kitchen hearths) and heavily farting, methane emitting free roaming livestock animals for the global warming! "Sacrifice" is the answer for today's uncontrolled carbon emissions and sacrifice must be made equitably by every denizen in this world for a better tomorrow.