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We’ve been led to believe that farming is natural and peaceful. As children we’d sing: ‘Old MacDonald had a farm and on that farm he had a pig’, read stories such as ‘Charlotte’s Web’ where Wilbur, the cheerful pig & Charlotte, the helpful spider lived in a pleasant barnyard with various other farm animals. The reality is much different. Rather than one pig happily playing in the farmyard, Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations [CAFOs] in the US confine thousands of pigs in overcrowded & filthy pens. At six months, pigs are shipped to the slaughterhouse before ending up as bacon on our plates. Obviously, there are no happy songs about crating thousands of pigs to the slaughterhouse. 

According to author / journalist George Monbiot: “the greatest threat to life on earth is farming.” Our current day farming practices contribute to climate breakdown by causing extinction and loss of wildlife biodiversity. From excessive land use leading to deforestation in Brazil to the animal waste that ends up polluting England’s rivers and threatening the health of communities throughout the world, the environmental impacts of our current food production systems are horrific and unsustainable. As you can see in the videos below, animal factory farms poison the environment and numerous communities worldwide.

YouTube video showing how Brazil, the world’s largest beef exporter, is destroying the Amazon rainforest at an alarming rate. Cattle and soy have replaced the  biodiversity of the once vibrant rainforest. 
“Row, row, row your boat through the chicken waste…”
the stench of manure from pig CAFOs is devastating communities in North Carolina, U.S.
While it’s true that factory farming is destructive, I was surprised to learn grass-fed beef & free range chickens are even worse for the environment. One study looked at what would happen if everyone in the US started to eat grass-fed beef. Since cows fed on grass grow more slowly, the number of cattle would have to rise by 30%, while the land area used to feed them would rise astronomically. If everyone ate grass-fed meat, we would need at least three additional Earths on which to produce it. 
In a warming world, more intense and unpredictable climatic events are increasing food insecurity. How can we feed a growing population on a finite planet? We need a new way to produce food – one that is more resilient to climate chaos and can produce enough food for our growing population.  If we want to prevent both climate and ecological catastrophes, we’d need to minimize  the amount of land we use to feed ourselves and transition toward more sustainable food systems. Currently, two promising techniques would fit the bill: precision fermentation [PF] and growing perennial grains [wheat & rice]. Both approaches would help ensure a livable planet for us and future generations as well as allowing wildlife to come back. In part II, I’ll discuss these techniques further.

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