Reducing the number of livestock and meat consumption are the surest ways for Swiss agriculture to achieve the objective of reducing its polluting emissions, according to an expert report. New technologies will not be enough.
Switzerland’s long-term climate strategy aims to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture by at least 40% by 2020, notes the report of the Federal Ethics Commission for Biotechnology in the Non-Human Field (CENH) presented Monday in Bern.
This objective is lower than that imposed on other fields, which gives agriculture a “special status” that is unjustifiable from an ethical point of view, criticize the authors.
Agriculture must make more efforts to become “greener”. It would be right for it to make its contribution in the same way as the other sectors in order to effectively combat climate change, even if it also has the mission of guaranteeing the country’s food security. It is “extremely urgent” that it adapts, underline the experts.
This includes developing production methods that can cope with “climate volatility”, i.e. the unpredictable alternation between extreme drought and exceptional rainfall. The ECNH “does not rule out” that biotechnologies applied to plant breeding may contribute to the adaptation of cultivated plants to climate change. But their potential is difficult to assess at the moment.
The climate emergency is such that it would be unwise to rely too much on genomics or offset negative emission (NET) technologies. The NETs, notes the report, arouse “legitimate reservations” about the speed of their development.
To achieve the goal of net zero emissions and meet Switzerland’s commitment to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century (Paris Agreement), NETs must be developed as soon as possible.
But that will not be enough, warn the authors of the report. It must first be ensured that the quantity of GHGs to be offset by means of these technologies is “as small as possible”.
Fewer animals, less meat
To do this, in agriculture, “nothing can exempt us from considerably reducing the number of livestock on a global and national scale”, advocates the CENH. It is also necessary to cultivate more plants intended for human consumption and to reduce the consumption of meat and milk.
These restrictions are necessary even in the event that it would be possible, thanks to genetic engineering, to reduce GHG emissions from livestock, continue the specialists. They insist: in the face of the climate emergency, we must rely on existing technologies.
Be that as it may, “it does not seem possible” to reduce GHG emissions to zero, even by completely renouncing the keeping of livestock and the import of animal products, further warn the experts. . Fertilizers and land use will indeed always result in residual emissions, which will have to be compensated by NETs if the “net zero” objective is to be achieved.
Plant Selector Reviews
The association “The varieties of tomorrow” does not share the position of the commission which denies the potential of new plant selections for sustainable agriculture. She regrets even more that the experts have waived an ethical evaluation, she said in a statement Monday.
Research communities around the world believe that new breeding techniques are part of effective measures to adapt to climate change. They make it possible to modify the genetic heritage of plants in a simple and precise way, without however introducing foreign genes.
The association “The varieties of tomorrow” asks the Federal Council to present a proposal for regulations for new plant breeding methods by 2024. It counts among its members the retailers Migros, Coop Denner and associations such as the Bernese peasants, Fruit-Union Suisse or cereal producers.
This article has been published automatically. Source: ats