Is it inevitable to consume laboratory meat and insects because of climate change?

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According to Europe’s academic academies, urgent action is needed on food and nutrition security: Europe needs to change its nutritional habits if it is to cope with climate change and its health challenges. To this end, scientists recommend increasing the proportion of seafood and drawing attention to the potential of meat and insects produced in the laboratory.

The resolution published on the website of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) is the first part of a global analysis on Europe, made with the participation of 130 scientific academies. The European Academic Advisory Board (EASAC) resolution states that climate change will have a negative impact on food production. This necessitates the introduction of climate-friendly agriculture, for example by breeding drought-tolerant varieties. According to scientists, in order to protect human health and the environment, it is also necessary to change food consumption habits. For example, the intake of animal proteins should be reduced.

The resolution calls on policy makers to act against food prices that encourage the consumption of high calorie foods and to introduce new, stimulating elements to promote affordable nutrition. In the interests of food safety, researchers consider the description and management of sources of food contamination to be of paramount importance. According to the document, European countries should undertake to collect more reliable data on the amount of waste generated in the food economy and on the effectiveness of interventions to reduce it. The authors emphasize the importance of reforming the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The aim is to reward innovative solutions rather than simple financial support for farmers.

The resolution calls the role of livestock farming in greenhouse gas emissions an important issue. According to the researchers, the changes introduced in animal husbandry can contribute to reducing this. However, in order to achieve a real reduction, it may be necessary to change the demand for animal products. It is believed that conventional forms of animal protein have alternatives that Europe may consider. Examples include seafood, ocean food, laboratory meat, and insects. According to them, there is a chance of increasing the proportion of ocean and seafood, and the meat produced in laboratories (in vitro) may have a lower environmental impact than that caused by farm animals. However, this should be confirmed by further studies.

“More effort is needed to understand the role of soil in carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and organic farming,” the researchers said, saying that Europe should not delay the potential of genome editing, precision agriculture, and the use of large data files . The protection and description of the wild-type (original) genetic set, as well as the continuation of genomic research, and the exploration of the potential inherent in genetic resources, have been identified as important for plants and animals. Finally, it was pointed out that precision agriculture offers many opportunities to increase productivity, along with shrinking environmental resources.

EASAC’s resolution is part of a global project led by InterAcademy Partnership (an organization representing academia in the world). Three more will follow this report on Europe from the Americas, Africa and Asia. The aim of the unprecedented collaboration with 130 scientific academies is to gather the latest results on the future of food, health and the environment. The Global Comparative Report will be released in mid-2018.

The European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC) was set up by national academies of EU Member States to jointly formulate proposals for policy makers. EASAC, a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, was founded in 2001 at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

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