Response to 'Apocalypse Cow' documentary
Rob Percival, Head of Food and Health Policy, Soil Association, said:
“Channel 4’s ‘Apocalypse Cow’ offered a radical but misplaced vision of an alternative food system. Monbiot’s diagnosis of the problem is mostly correct. We need to plant more trees, and we need to stop farming animals intensively and feeding them environmentally damaging imported feed crops. Radical change is needed across our food system, but Monbiot throws the baby out with the bathwater in his dismissal of extensive and agroecological farming.
“Recent modelling by thinktank IDDRI showed that organic and agroecological farming can feed a growing population a healthy diet, while helping to resolve the climate and nature crises. Monbiot’s farming vs. nature narrative creates a false dichotomy. A transition to agroecology would preserve biodiversity and help end deforestation; it would nurture healthy, carbon rich soils, with ruminant animals playing a vital role. We should be looking to incorporate trees onto farms in agroforestry systems and farm woodland, instead of seeing trees and farming in competition. This will all require a significant change in diet, including a shift towards ‘less and better’ meat and away from intensively-reared, grain fed meat, but this change is not as extreme as the change Monbiot proposes.
“‘Precision fermentation’ – like algae and insect farming – may well have a contribution to make in taking pressure off land in future. But Monbiot’s vision of wholesale take-over of ‘farmfree foods’ risks being more dystopia than utopia – not least because of the risk of corporate capture that he himself identifies. A diet based around foods synthesised from chemical and nutrient components would also likely be a backward step for nutrition. Research into the gut microbiome is revealing the harm caused by ultra-processed foods and the importance of a diversity of whole, unprocessed foods for our gut and health. Whole foods are more than the sum of their nutrient parts and should form the basis of a healthy diet.”