By replacing animal farming with proteins from microorganisms, 3/4s of the world's farmland can be rewilded. This transition will increase biodiversity and avoid further global warming while preventing animal suffering. That is the key message of Reboot Food, RePlanet's new campaign.
During Agriculture Day at the UN Climate Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, RePlanet activists presented both a manifesto and a report with policy recommendations. The Reboot Food campaign claims that all efforts to keep the Paris Agreement alive are ‘futile’ without concrete steps to radically reform food production.
Speaking from Sharm el-Sheikh, RePlanet's Campaigns Coordinator Joel Scott-Halkes says: 'COP27 has shamefully failed to address the emissions and land use of animal agriculture. Incrementalism in farming is no longer an option - we need revolutionary food production. In the face of catastrophic climate breakdown, highly land-efficient forms of food production are the bold solutions we need.'
George Monbiot, author and activist, supports the campaign. He says: 'The elephant in the room at COP27 is the cow. By rebooting our food systems with precision fermentation we can phase out animal agriculture while greatly increasing the amount of protein available for human consumption.'
Precision fermentation (PF) creates biologically identical animal proteins using genetically engineered microorganisms fermented in tanks. According to the Reboot Food report, protein from microorganisms can be up to over 40,000 times more land efficient than beef. This means that such ‘farm-free foods’ could produce the entire world's protein requirements on just 420 square kilometres of land - an area smaller than Greater London.
This would not only save 3/4s of global agricultural land for nature restoration and carbon drawdown, but would also release more than 90% less greenhouse gases per calorie produced. Today precision fermentation is already used for milk proteins and egg whites, available in US grocery market.
'It's time for sensible environmentalists to unite behind food production techniques that use less land, not more'
The Reboot Food manifesto calls for land sparing and planetary-scale rewilding to be the objective in all agricultural decision-making. The authors suggest 10 policies, including:
investing 2.5% of GDP over 10 years into food innovation;
ending all subsidies for animal agriculture, and subsidising plant-based foods instead;
banning the advertising of carbon-intensive meat; and
limiting patents on new food technology, and legalising gene editing.
Such moves are urgently necessary, says RePlanet, because agriculture is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all cars, aeroplanes and ships on the planet. Moreover, agriculture is the cause of 80% of deforestation this century and the single biggest cause of the sixth mass extinction of species. Most of this harm is caused by the high land usage of animal agriculture which occupies 28% of the planet's ice-free land, more than all the world’s forests combined.
Emma Smart, Coordinator of RePlanet UK, says: 'The precision fermentation revolution is as significant and consequential for our natural world as the dawn of farming was 10,000 years ago. Only this time, today’s food revolution promises a new age of regeneration not devastation for non-human life.'
Mark Lynas, climate author and RePlanet Senior Strategist, says: 'The mainstream environmental movement’s agricultural policies are making things worse not better. Organic and "regenerative" farming methods encourage agricultural sprawl and have become smokescreens for the livestock industry. It's time for sensible environmentalists to unite behind food production techniques that use less land, not more.'