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IPCC Report Leaves No Doubt As To Importance Of Alt Protein In The Fight Against Climate Change


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In a newly published statement, the Good Food Institute (GFI) Europe has outlined the role plant-based and cultivated meats have to play in future food security based on inclusion in the just-released IPCC report. The GFI declaration is framed by tangible pressure on food production as the world’s population grows. Increases in food-borne diseases and water insecurity make alternatives to conventional environmentally impactful protein production essential, it says.

Chapter five of the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report highlights how cultivated and plant-based meat alternatives can be used for a positive effect. Alongside reducing food’s future impact on the climate crisis, they are cited as potential solutions to consequences already being witnessed.

Image by Markus Spiske from Pexels

Breaking down the citings

The report lists four key ways in which alt protein needs to be considered as a tool:

1. Fewer resources needed

Cultivated meat is heralded as a resource-light alternative to real meat. The technology used to create it replaces the need for vast land use, both in terms of pastures and crops for animal feed. Currently, 77 percent of agricultural land is used for animal rearing, supplying just 18 percent of the world’s calories, according to the GFI.

2. Better health

Changing diets to include fewer animal products has been shown to improve mortality rates, local biodiversity and the environment. A higher share of plant-based foods is thought to mitigate a number of risk factors, including cancer.

3. Targeted marketing

Recent studies have proven that the way plant-based foods are presented on a menu greatly affects the likelihood of consumers ordering them. Independent messages about personal or planetary health have been deemed relatively unhelpful. Easy access to cost-effective and numerous meat-free options is seen as a major driver to people making better choices. 

4. A catalyst for subsidy shift

Subsidies are still largely given to environmentally damaging sectors, including animal agriculture. If these could be redirected towards plant-based foods, they would become cheaper, more in demand and the sector would grow to create more jobs. The increase in dietary options would encourage people to see plant-based eating as normal, not niche. 

What can be done

GFI is asking global governments to invest in open-access R&D across plant-based and cultivated meat platforms. Identified as potential solutions to the climate crisis, it says both need to be funded heavily to garner maximum benefit and development. The non-profit think tank has sought to bolster its request by claiming that pandemics, antibiotic resistance and food insecurity could all be addressed with the same initiative.

“It’s encouraging that the world’s top scientists have acknowledged the role plant-based and cultivated meat could play in future-proofing our food system. Now governments need to weave these sustainable proteins into their strategies for adaptation and reducing emissions,” Seren kell, science and technology manager at the GFI Europe said in a statement. “The IPCC has made clear that ‘transformation of food systems is needed’ if we’re to stand a chance of feeding a growing population on a warming planet – and these foods can ease that transformation by satisfying growing demand for meat in a more sustainable way. Plant-based and cultivated meat can help to make food supplies less vulnerable to extreme weather, conserve precious water resources, make balanced diets more affordable for people around the world, and reduce the burden of foodborne diseases.”

Photo by Arvind Vallabh on Unsplash.

The rolling impact of the IPCC

The latest IPCC report has proven to be harrowing. Many are claiming it is the most damning yet, documenting ongoing climate crisis consequences and policymaker’s flaccid responses to tackling it. Explicit in his disgust is UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Launching a series of clear-cut rebukes at the fossil fuel industry and world leaders failing to sanction them, he calls for immediate change. His proposal to divert 50 percent of all climate financing to the adaptation of renewable energy sources was one of the most audacious parts of his IPCC response statement.

Elsewhere, Asia Pacific’s alt protein industry is showing positive signs of growth, having attracted record amounts of funding in 2021. Plant-based meats still claim the lion’s share of investment, but cultivated and fermented developments reported significant increases, year-on-year. $312 million was invested in the region in 2021, with 2022 already on track to be another record-smashing year. Singapore’s Next Gen Foods and China’s Starfield Food Science & Technology have both reported massive funding rounds already, garnering predictions of APAC’s biggest alt protein year ever.


Lead photo by Starfield.


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