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Hi! I am Deirdre Kent and I live in a retirement village in Waikanae, an hour north of Wellington in New Zealand. For the last 20 years I have been thinking and writing and acting on the topic of New Economics. This site has a lot of blogs about New Economics, including a lot about my last book. However, more recently my passion has been on advocating for Whole Food Plant Based Eating. So here you will find new material on that topic.

Because I am older, I started eating this way for health reasons, although others adopt it for environmental reasons and of course animal welfare reasons. I want to stay alive and I also am glad that eating this way is one of my small contributions to reducing emissions.

I will be blogging here and giving you links to material from the various authorities on this topic.

So enjoy!

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Why I no longer eat dairy

At first I was convinced by the whole organic milk argument and for years I had it delivered. I had been convinced by Sally Fallon, President and founder of the Weston A Price Foundation. l made my kefir from it and gulped it down as though there was no tomorrow, to  the consternation of my doctor daughter. Kay Baxter from the Koanga Institute sold us Sally Fallon’s book (and thank heaven I wasn’t attracted to the idea of eating a lot of raw offal, something the book was keen on). But the raw milk argument seemed logical at the time.

I also suffered from a congested nose most of the day and had to sniff something up my nose at night time to stop it from blocking. I also took a drug to prevent nighttime asthma. I also found I had low bone density. Mmm. Hold that thought.

Then at the beginning of 2019 I visited Dr Luke Wilson for a second opinion. I asked him how to reverse my heart disease and get off all these medications. He recommended I look up Dr Caldwell Esselstyn online and I there began my journey to Whole Food Plant Based eating and researching.

So I stopped the milk and replaced it with oat, soy or rice milk.

OK so here is why dairy is unsuitable:

  1. Milk is not actually designed for human consumption. It is designed to help a baby calf grow rapidly 650gm a day for 10-12 weeks before weaning.
  2. Dairy doesn’t prevent bone fractures. It is misleading propaganda of the dairy industry that it strengthens bones and the Ministry of Health, because New Zealand is so dependent on dairy exports, doesn’t do anything to correct this information. So our public remains chronically misinformed.Animal products makes the body acidic and since the body needs to function healthily within a very narrow pH range when the pH gets too low the body looks around to find something to neutralise the acid. So the bones are depleted.One good description of the mechanism for this is from Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine website. “Animal protein tends to leach calcium from the bones, leading to its excretion in the urine. Animal proteins are high in sulfur-containing amino acids, especially cystine and methionine. Sulfur is converted to sulfate, which tends to acidify the blood. During the process of neutralizing this acid, bone dissolves into the bloodstream and filters through the kidneys into the urine. Meats and eggs contain two to five times more of these sulfur-containing amino acids than are found in plant foods.
  3. Cheese is worst of all. In his book The Cheese Trap Dr Neal Barnard of Physicians for Responsible Medicine says that cheese is
    1. High in calories
    2. Food fat adds to body fat
    3. Fat slows metabolism
    4. No fibre in cheese to control appetite
    5. It is high in sodium and that means body soaks up water.

     

    As if this wasn’t enough, I know the nitrogen runoff from our dairy farms are polluting our rivers and growing cows to drink their milk involves methane emissions, not to mention the nitrous oxide that comes from the cow puddles.

    And I have read nutritionist T Colin Campbells’s lifetime work showing that casein is a good medium for cancer cells to grow. I know we have a great many cancer cells in our bodies at any one time and the issue is whether or not they will grow.

     

    Now I no longer need medications for blocked noses and although I missed blue vein cheese for a while, I now longer want dairy. Sometimes when I forget to take a little plant milk with me, I still succumb to a little cow’s milk in my tea, but half the time I just have it without milk.

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What’s in Meat and why I don’t eat it

8 slices of roast lamb, a lot of potatoes, parsnip and pumpkin roasted no doubt in animal fat and peas and carrots underneath. Bargain at $19.

Today I agreed to help a friend who couldn’t drive by buying her regular roast meal from a local shop and delivering it to her for her dinner. Knowing I was vegan she checked out if it was OK by me to do that for her. Yes it was.

But during the afternoon I felt a little uneasy and so I began to work out why I didn’t eat meat. So I did some online research and wrote the following–which I ended up not giving her because if she read it she might not get her money’s worth. Here it is, though I have probably left out heaps of reasons:

What’s in Meat and why I don’t eat it

Heme iron. Often described as being good because it is more easily absorbed than non heme iron, heme iron is actually now thought of as harmful because once ingested and absorbed, the body has no mechanism to remove excess iron. This causes oxidative stress and heme iron has been linked to metabolic syndrome, coronary heart disease, atherosclerosis, stroke, type2 diabetes, Alzheimers disease, arthritis, cancer and other serious medical conditions.

Neu5Gc. This may pose a significant health risk. The immune system recognises it as a foreign threat, producing antibodies to it and setting up chronic low grade inflammation. Neu5Gc has been linked to cancer as well as cardiovascular and other inflammatory diseases.

Endotoxins. Endotoxins are one of the most important bacterial components contributing to the inflammatory process. The high bacteria load in animal foods may trigger a surge of inflammation, which may be exacerbated by the presence of saturated animal fat.

Cholesterol  100 gm of lamb has 97 mg cholesterol. Your body makes enough cholesterol for you and you don’t need extra.

Saturated fat “Nutritionists agree an excess of saturated fat in the diet is the main cause of high blood cholesterol. 100 gm of cooked lean lamb has 10.3gm saturated fat” (quote from Beef and Lamb NZ)

Animal protein. An average woman needs 46 g of protein a day. 100gm of cooked lamb has 25 g of protein. Protein is not the key to weight loss – it is actually one of the biggest factors behind the obesity epidemic. Animal protein is not the healthiest food we can eat. It is strongly associated with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and cancer. Westerners probably eat double the amount of protein needed.

Carnitine. When people digest meat a substance called TMAO (Trimethyl amine oxide) is formed in the body as a gut bacteria by-product. (The exception is when vegans eat meat because their gut bacteria is different, but this protection only lasts briefly if they continue meat.) People with higher levels of TMAO in their blood may have more than twice the risk of heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular problems, compared with people who have lower levels. Other studies have found links between high TMAO levels and heart failure and chronic kidney disease. High levels of TMAO in the blood have been shown to be a powerful tool for predicting future heart attack, stroke and death risks.

Many or all these inflammatory agents damage the lining of your arteries. Atherosclerosis associated with high dietary intake of meat, fat, and carbohydrates remains the leading cause of mortality in the US. This condition results from progressive damage to the endothelial cells lining the vascular system, including the heart, leading to endothelial dysfunction. Moreover the endothelium can’t produce enough nitric oxide which relaxes the inner muscles of the blood vessels, causing them to widen, stay slippery and smooth and increase circulation. Once there is damage to the lining of the artery, cholesterol passing by sticks to it, forming unstable plaques. Artery disease affects the heart, kidneys, lungs, lymph system, back, brain, sexual organs. Blood has to get unimpeded to all the body.

Compounds containing sulphur-containing amino acids

This quote is from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine website. “Animal proteins are high in sulfur-containing amino acids, especially cystine and methionine. Sulfur is converted to sulfate, which tends to acidify the blood. During the process of neutralizing this acid, bone dissolves into the bloodstream and filters through the kidneys into the urine. Meats and eggs contain two to five times more of these sulfur-containing amino acids than are found in plant foods. Consuming meat leads to calcium loss which can lead to bone fractures”…” A 1994 report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that when animal proteins were eliminated from the diet, calcium losses were cut in half.”

Climate change While it is not so climate-damaging as beef, growing lamb produces more emissions per calorie or per gm of protein than growing ,any plant protein.

 

Sources. Websites of Health Heart Harvard, nutritionfacts.org, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Cleveland Clinic, Dr Garth Davis

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Is arthritis pain just a matter of luck as you get older?

So many people I know have arthritis. One says her toes are all misshapen gnarled and twisted from it, another told me I was lucky I didn’t have any arthritis pain and yet another told me about her sore shoulder and the fact that the other shoulder already had a joint replacement. My neighbour had a knee replacement last year and goodness knows how many people I know with hip replacements. And we oldies take it all for granted, as though none can be prevented. The hospital waiting lists are long and the cost to the country keeps growing.

Well I didn’t know whether to say it on any of those occasions, but my arthritis pain in my fingers, sternum disappeared very soon after  I adopted a fully plant based diet early last year. If I had no doubt they would say I was just lucky or it was just a coincidence.

I understood from something I had seen on youtube that the lumps don’t disappear, the better diet doesn’t reverse the damage that has already happened but at least I was getting no more pain. But also, ringing in my ears is always the rhythmic sentence that Dr Michael Klaper says so fast. “When we adopt a wholefood, plant-based diet  the obesity melts away, the arteries open up, the blood pressure comes down, the insulin reception clears out, the asthmatic lungs stop wheezing, the skin clears up and the joints stop hurting.”

So today I was curious to find if there were any appropriate scientific papers. I went to nutritionfacts.org. There was one that said those who ate more dairy products were more like to need hip replacement surgery. Then I went to the site of the Physicians Committee on Responsible Medicine and found one on the effect of fibre. “Those who consumed the highest amounts of fiber from the OAI and Framingham studies had a 30 percent and 61 percent lower risk for knee arthritis, respectively, compared with those who consumed the least. Researchers contribute the reduced risk to fiber’s role in lowering both BMI and inflammatory compounds in the blood”. (Not surprising when you realise that meat, dairy and eggs have absolutely no fibre.)

Then I did a google search on “osteoarthritis whole foods plant based” OK  –so it now looks as though there have been at least one study on the effect of a plant based diet on osteoarthritis. There is  one in 2019 published in an Arthritis journal lists all the anti-inflammatories and anti-oxidants in various plant foods which could explain the reason pain is reduced on a plant based diet and the disease doesn’t advance so fast. It concludes “A whole food plant-based diet (WFPBD) has been shown to reduce the symptoms of osteoarthritis by reducing risk factors such as obesity, metabolic syndrome and Type II Diabetes.”

No doubt there will be more studies published.

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Meat and aviation industries use cute ways to measure emissions

When it comes to telling the public about their emissions, the aviation industry keeps telling us how much their efficiency has improved. That is they can fly further on a certain amount of fuel. But what they don’t tell us is that their capacity keeps increasing so much that overall their emissions increase. The planes are bigger, they have more routes and there are more planes flying.

The meat and dairy industries have been doing this too. When the scientists at FAO calculated the emissions from the livestock industry in 2006 and found them to be 18% of total global emissions, the industries didn’t take it lying down. Here is a piece from the GRAIN website (GRAIN is an international organisation of small farmers)

“The FAO was blasted by the meat industry after it released a report in 2006 putting livestock’s share of global GHG emissions at 18 per cent. “You wouldn’t believe how much we were attacked”, said Samuel Jutzi, director of the animal production and health division of the FAO.[22] The FAO soon buckled under the pressure and agreed to establish a partnership with the meat industry’s main lobby groups to jointly reassess emissions from livestock.[23] Both the partnership’s Steering Committee and its Technical Advisory Groups are dominated by representatives of meat companies, their lobby groups and scientists funded by meat and dairy companies.

As a result of the FAO’s partnership with industry, it has shifted its focus towards a narrow assessment of “emissions intensity”, in which GHG emissions are examined per unit of output (per kg of meat, litre of milk or unit of protein). Measured this way, animals that are intensively raised for maximum output of meat and milk—by a few million farmers mostly in the US, Europe, Brazil, New Zealand and a few other rich countries—have a lower “emissions intensity” than the animals of poor farmers, which are raised for many more uses and without access to the high protein feed, antibiotics, growth promoters and hormones used by intensive livestock industries. Poor farmers are thus said to suffer from an “emissions intensity gap” and should be pushed into what is termed “sustainable intensification” or, more broadly, “climate smart agriculture”.[24]

So like the aviation industry, for “emissions intensity” read “efficiency”. More efficient but more capacity for doing it!

Unfortunately the difference is that the meat and dairy industries have persuaded the FAO to do this too so we all get figures that are skewed and only a small proportion of the population is even aware that meat and dairy contribute to emissions, particularly big meat and big dairy.

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New Zealand’s agricultural emissions are high

Nearly half of New Zealand’s emissions are from livestock. A shocking 46.1% for the year 2012 as calculated by the Ministry for the Environment. (MfE). A large proportion of this comes from beef and to a less extent sheep. The MfE paper tells us tells us that in 2012 we had 6.4 m dairy cattle, 3.8m beef cattle, 3.1 m sheep and 1 m deer. So a total of 14.3m ruminant livestock.

So I read their paper calculating our emissions, or more accurately skimmed through it, reading the less technical parts of it as it is hundreds of pages long. I was looking for indications of what Global Warming Potential they were using for methane. It was only when I was reading a book by Richard Oppenlander that I saw the statement that methane is 72 times as powerful as carbon dioxide over a 20 year period and checked this out with Prof James Renwick of Victoria University. Yes he said that is the figure that scientists are taking now.

I finally discovered on a Stats NZ site that we do calculate our methane contribution with a GWP of 25 and once again questioned the climate science professor. He answered,

“Yes a GWP of 25 sounds right as they’ll be using GWP100. That’s still the standard under .the UNFCCC so is how we are required to report emissions (as I understand things), even though the science has clearly moved on to the two baskets approach. ”

But then I asked him if I was right to say the percentage contributed by agriculture would rise if methane GWP was 72, and he said no it would fall. So I was wrong, the headline above is misleading now and I will change it.

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New Zealanders eat 94.6kg of meat per capita according to Beef and Lamb NZ

On this topic there is nothing better than referring to Beef and Lamb New Zealand website itself from which I quote:-

How much red meat are Kiwis currently eating? Based on working estimates, New Zealanders currently eat (carcass weight equivalent) about: 17.2kg beef, 5kg lamb and 0.7kg mutton per capita. In addition, 23.9kg pork and 47.8kg chicken per capita (2017-18 BLNZ Ltd Economic Service) resulting in a total red meat intake 46.8kg (beef + lamb/mutton + pork)

In the last 10 years to 2017-18, per capita figures have changed:

  • Beef down 38%
  • Lamb down 45%
  • Mutton down 72%
  • Overall reduction of beef/lamb/mutton = 42%
  • Pork up 15%
  • Poultry up 40%
  • Overall reduction all meats = 0%

I find this interesting that even though we reduce our red meat, we are so obsessed with getting our protein from animals that we increase pork and poultry (note they don’t mention fish).

I also find interesting the fact that they have classified pork as red meat, which I don’t think is the public perception. I may be wrong.

So we each eat 46.8kg from red meat and 47.8 kg from chicken or 94.6kg meat.

I am not sure this tallies with the world figures quoted for our country. And all this without dairy consumption to add to our animal protein.

Clearly someone is eating my share!

 

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The chicken industry kills four chickens every second in New Zealand

The website of the Poultry Industry Association of NZ (PIANZ) says we kill 125 million birds a year. This tallies well with Stats NZ which gives 124 million,  – much the same. This works out at 238 chickens a minute or about four per second are killed day and night. And we would each eat 25 chickens a year.

But wait. PIANZ also states we each eat 20 chickens a year or 37.5 kg chicken. They are produced on 180 farms. That amounts to the meat on 750 drumsticks a year or about 2 a day.

So we presume the discrepancy is that some are exported or just that some are killed. It sounds like there are numerous deaths before they mature what with the forced feeding that makes  a third of them painfully lame in the last weeks. They double in weight so quickly that their legs can’t carry them.

The Poultry Industry is growing

Stats NZ also gives the figures for the growth of the poultry industry. There are figures for processed chicken meat for every quarter. Back in  the first quarter of 2011, we processed 21,427 chickens whereas the third quarter of 2019 we processed 30,950. It grew every quarter in that period. That is a 44% increase over those eight years.

Of course this is helped along the way by what they would call  “improvements in efficiency” as they now slaughter chickens between 34 and 42 days. This means you can raise nearly nine a year by replacing them.

So it seems chicken is becoming more and more popular. With fish, it is stealing the meat market away from red meat.

Most chicken is sold fresh with only about an eleventh of them sold frozen. Our main exporter is Tegel who in 2018 exported $89.6 million while making a total of $615m profits that year.

New Zealand has about 140 meat chicken farmers and 170 commercial egg farmers.  The four largest companies are TegelInghamsBrinks and Turks

Climate effects of Chicken

But what about their contribution to climate change? Because poultry have lower greenhouse gas emissions due to their lower enteric methane production rates than ruminant livestock species, many consider poultry to have an environmental advantage compared to many other animal protein sources.

Poore puts the greenhouse gas production per serving at about a sixth of that of beef, but it is still six times a big as a serving of beans. But I guess the problem is not per serving. It is the total. Six servings of chicken produce the same weight of GHGs as one of beef.

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When you die isn’t really a matter of luck

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and somehow we got on to the issue of what I ate. I started eating whole foods plant based with no oil just 10 months ago. Having told this person come out with the fact that I now only need to take 2 meds instead of 6, that my joints had stopped aching, my weight had normalised, my diabetes risk had disappeared and my asthma had gone away, there was a flicker of interest.

But quickly that same person opined that when you die is a matter of luck. And then we went on to talk about something else. Well that set me thinking. I don’t seem to remember studies that said it was just luck how long you live at all! I seem to recall longevity is multifactorial – diet, exercise, social interaction, income, gender and many others.

So let’s just cover diet. And I will look just at the big studies.

  1. Adventist Health Studies The Loma Linda city, east of Los Angeles in California, provides a perfect selection of participants to study because they are Seventh Day Adventists whose diets can be easily categorised according to what proportion animal products are in their diet and then they can be compared with the average Californian. The Los Angeles Times says those people in Loma Linda live almost a decade longer than the rest of us. According to Wikipedia:

“The first major study of Adventists began in 1960, and has become known as the Adventist Mortality Study. Consisting of 22,940 California Adventists, it entailed an intensive 5-year follow-up and a more informal 25-year follow-up.

“…[The] Adventist Mortality Study (1960–1965) did indicate that Adventist men lived 6.2 years longer than non-Adventist men in the concurrent American Cancer Society Study and Adventist women had a 3.7-year advantage over their counterparts. These statistics were based on life table analyses.”[3]

Specifically, comparing death rates of Adventist compared to other Californians:[4]Death rates from all cancers was 40% lower for Adventist men and 24% lower for Adventist women.

But a bigger study the Adventist Health Study 2 was started in 2002 and included 96,000 Seventh Day Adventists in US and Canada, headed by Dr Gary Fraser. The study population is 25 percent African-American and half vegetarian. They were over 30 and all spoke English. Here is what it found:

Vegetarian Adventist men live to an average of 83.3 years and vegetarian women 85.7 years — 9.5 and 6.1 years respectively, longer than other Californians.

– Vegans are, on average, 30 pounds lighter than meat eaters.
– Vegans are also five units lighter on the BMI scale than meat-eaters.
– Vegetarians and vegans are also less insulin resistant than meat-eaters.
– Lean people are also more likely to exercise regularly, eat plants, and avoid cigarettes than overweight people, suggesting that numerous factors are boosting the overall health of these participants.
– Pesco-vegetarians and semi-vegetarians who limit animal products, but still eat meat once a week or so, have “intermediate protection” against lifestyle diseases.

When it came to death rates per 1000 person years the vegan group did the best at only 5.40, the lacto-ovo vegetarians had 5.61, the pesco-vegetarians had 5.33, the semi-vegetarians had 6.16 deaths and the non-vegetarians had 6.61 deaths.

A meta-analysis of 95 studies covering 2 million people was published in early 2017 by Dr Dagfinn Aune.  He said eating 10 servings of fruit and vegetables a day or 800 gram, would result in a 15% drop in the risk of premature deaths. It lengthens your life. That would be 7.8 million premature deaths prevented every year. Unfortunately the WHO only recommends 400 gm a day, but US recommends 650-800 gm a day. Dr Aune said this study was bad news for the supplement industry. See https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/46/3/1029/3039477

The EPIC /PANACEA study, a multicentre, prospective cohort study of ten European countries with over 500,000 in it, conducted from 1992 and 2000 found that:

  • If you ate 5 servings of fruit and veges a day it would give you 4 years extra
  • If you didn’t smoke you get another 5 years
  • If you do moderate exercise you get 3 more years
  • Do all of these and you get 10 healthy years
  • If you take away alcohol as well, you get 14 years.

But only 3% do it!

The Harvard Nurses Health Study conducted over 35 years had 275,000 participants. The first study was started 1976, the second started in 1989 and was led by Dr Walter Willett, and the third Sept 2016. Walter Willett more recently led the EAT-Lancet study which is about diet and climate change. Between them these studies have made major contributions to our knowledge about diet and health. .

There will be others, but these are a few of the major ones.

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New Zealand editorial writer is dreaming if he thinks sustainable beef production is possible

In June 2019 the Herald was doing some editorialising on the end of meat. Impossible Burgers had recently made an entry and it was looking like there were going to be more plant based imitation meat appearing on the market soon. They said, “While in New Zealand beef and lamb consumption has fallen, 38 per cent and 45 per cent respectively in the past 10 years, the trend doesn’t spell doom for our $10 billion red meat industry.”

That is a considerable drop, some of which is compensated for by New Zealanders now eating more chicken. No wonder Beef and Lamb has been panicking recently.

The editorial then went on to get excited about the FAO’s prediction that meat consumption will rise globally and that the meat trade is going to increase 20% rise between 2017 and 2027. Ah exports to developing countries, that looks promising.

Oh yes, it’s China. They are taking more of our red meat, much more. But then the Herald editorial goes on to say that this is breathing space for us and “If anything the rise of global demand adds to the challenge to produce meat more sustainably, with less impact on the environment.”  

Well I’ve been boning up on what Dr Joseph Poore has been saying and it just doesn’t tally. And what Dr Robert Goodland, formerly of the World Bank where he led the environmental assessment team for 23 years, said. It doesn’t tally with that either. They are both sure there is no such thing as sustainable beef production.

Dr Poore of Oxford University recently published a study of 38,700 commercially viable farms in 119 countries over 40 agricultural products. This represented about 90% of global protein and calorie consumption worldwide. He gathered data from thousands of scientists and his lecture took an hour and a half to listen to.

Climate change is only one of the environmental problems of food systems. The others were freshwater use, water pollution (eutrophication) and air pollution (acidification). Because they were studying emissions farm by farm, he found they varied hugely, even within the same region. For beef, one farm can produce 1000% more emissions of another and use 5000% more land. That is one beef farm can produce 11 times more emissions than another. He was staggered by the variability.

And here is the kicker: “Even the lowest impact beef farms are producing six times more greenhouse gases and using 36 times as much land for growing a fixed weight of protein as farms growing beans and pulses.”  His conclusion: “Eating plant based protein and milk delivers more environmental benefits than trying to purchase sustainably produced meat and dairy.”

The Guardian of course gives a great run down of his research findings – “Avoiding meat and dairy is the Single Biggest Way to Reduce your Impact on Earth” (31 May 2018) But they omit his big recommendation: That there be mandatory environmental labelling of food products. He says that nowadays with satellites able to give good data on crop areas, crop identity and crop yields together with farm inspectors looking at fertiliser, crop residues etc, each farmer can provide information to next in food chain. Four possibilities for data on labels – emissions, water scarcity, pesticide toxicity and impact on biodiversity, thought the first two are easier than the second two.

 

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What if New Zealand farmers grew less meat and dairy for the climate’s sake?

In New Zealand we all know that agricultural emissions are the second biggest sector at 48%. We have a big beef and dairy sector, the latter having expanded into dry regions once irrigation became available. These areas are entirely unsuitable for dairy conversions.

Since the New Zealand government announced in October 2019 that it would not include farm emissions in the Emissions Trading Scheme just yet, I have been wondering how farmers will adapt during this initial trial period. The scheme aims to cut emissions by charging companies a price for each unit of greenhouse gas produced and farmers will be exempt till 2025 while they adapt. Under the scheme, farmers would be responsible for collecting data, reporting it, and paying directly for emissions. If the government doesn’t think they are moving fast enough they will legislate earlier.

People seem to think it is just their farm practices that will have to change. So is it just their farm practices or is it something else as well?

It’s not just about adopting good water management practices. Emissions come from burps.

In a significant study by a 37 experts-strong EAT-Lancet commission called Food in the Anthropocene, published in The Lancet in January 2019, there is this astounding statement:  “We estimated that changes in food production practices could reduce agricultural greenhouse-gas emissions in 2050 by about 10%, whereas increased consumption of plant-based diets could reduce emissions by up to 80%.” Well, it looks like experts from our agricultural colleges might quibble with that factor, but nonetheless the potential is huge. Even the 11,000 scientists who recently declared a climate emergency wanted us to eat less meat and dairy.

So while we may be the first country in the world to include agriculture in our emissions pricing scheme, the future is in the hands of farmers. The government wants methane emissions down 10% by 2025.

And of course it’s not just methane emissions that have to come down. According to Professor James Renwick (email 2 Nov 2019) “The key thing to do is limit CO2 concentrations as they decide the long-term change in climate. How important methane reductions are depends on what’s happening with CO2 concentrations.
Reducing methane emissions will buy us decreases in methane concentrations over just a few years, but it’s pretty much wasted effort if we continue to let CO2 continue to build up.”

Feed lots in New Zealand are becoming more common

The main agricultural greenhouse gases (GHG) are methane and nitrous oxide. Methane is produced in the rumen of the cows by certain microbes and are naturally present in all ruminant animals. … Nitrous Oxide (N2O) is emitted from soil when urine, faeces and fertilisers are broken down by microbes in the soil.

The EAT-Lancet study, which had 357 references at the end, and was done by an international team of experts from health, agriculture, climate change and politics, puts methane as 56 times as powerful a greenhouse-gas as carbon dioxide over a 20 year period and nitrous oxide as 280 times as powerful. (It also recommended that protein be just 10% of the daily calories)

It’s fairly horrifying to find that over a period of 55 years (1961-2016) there has been a worldwide 89% increase in agricultural emissions (not CO2). That is methane and nitrous oxide mostly. But on that same climatewatchdata site, we have agricultural emissions being only 11.5% of total emissions. That, of all estimates, is the lowest, the highest being from the consultants that Worldwatch commissioned in 2009, at 51%. The FAO in 2006 estimated 18% and revised that down later to 14%. Goodland, one of the Worldwatch Institute’s consultants noted that by then FAO had ‘partnered with international meat, dairy and egg organisations so was no longer objective.’

Wise Response, an environmental organisation comprised mainly of academics, said in their submission on agricultural emissions, “While CO2 is the dominant greenhouse gas, keeping global warming less than 2°C or 1.5°C clearly requires control of all greenhouse gases and in particular of methane (CH4) that is the second most significant. As noted in a recent and very detailed comparison of different pathways consistent with the 1.5°C target, “early mitigation of CH4 emissions would significantly increase the feasibility of stabilising global warming below 1.5 °C, alongside having co-benefits for human and ecosystem health”.

They also state that because of New Zealand’s knowledge from agricultural universities to date, “In terms of dairy emissions reduction, anything up to 24% can be done without any drop in farm profitability (i.e. zero marginal cost of abatement). ”

The good thing about this is this. The Interim Climate Change Committee said, “Innovation in the agricultural sector has reduced its emissions intensity (emissions per unit product) by about 20% over the last 25 years. But overall agricultural emissions have increased 13.5% since 1990. The improvements farmers have made have helped keep agricultural emissions relatively stable since 2012”

While Wise Response referred briefly to the benefits of eating less meat and dairy, the sad thing is that as the Western world reduces its meat intake, the developing world is increasing. And that means China and India. Our exports are going increasingly to China and in fact China is New Zealand’s top market for red meat now. It’s just no good for global emissions for a few developed countries to reduce meat and dairy products because they have heard the health message and the environment message. China and all the other developing countries  must stop their demand for animal products.

And that is something we can’t control. If we grew less beef and dairy, what would we replace our exports with? A tiny movement is detectable I believe which is reported on by Country Calendar on TVOne and by Country Life from RNZ of farmers experimenting with growing pumpkin seeds and hazelnuts as well.

 

 

 

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