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(Article Summarized by Meridian Institute) Researchers at the University of Minnesota are reporting that reducing meat consumption and using more efficient farming methods globally are essential if we are to avoid irreversible damage to the environment. The study, which examined more than 740 production systems for more than 90 different types of food in order to understand the links between diets, agricultural production practices and environmental degradation, was published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. According to Dr. Michael Clark, the lead author, "If we want to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture, but still provide a secure food supply for a growing global population, it is essential to understand how these things are linked." The impacts studied included levels of land use, greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), fossil fuel energy use, nutrient runoff and acidification potential. While the team did find that high agricultural efficiency correlated with lower environmental impacts, the findings did not imply conventional practices are sustainable. Instead, the authors said, combining the benefits of different production systems would result in a more sustainable agricultural system. "Interestingly,” said Clark, “we also found that a shift away from ruminant meats like beef - which have impacts three to 10 times greater than other animal-based foods - towards nutritionally similar foods like pork, poultry or fish would have significant benefits, both for the environment and for human health. Larger dietary shifts, such as global adoption of low-meat or vegetarian diets, would offer even larger benefits to environmental sustainability and human health." Professor David Tilman, the report’s co-author, added, "The steps we have outlined, if adopted individually, offer large environmental benefits. Simultaneous adoption of these and other solutions, however, could prevent any increase in agriculture's environmental impacts. We must make serious choices, before agricultural activities cause substantial, and potentially irreversible, environmental damage."

Posted June 16th, 2017