Farmers hit out at proposed 'planetary health diet'

Farmers hit out at proposed 'planetary health diet'
ICMSA president Pat McCormack

Both the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) and the Irish Creamery Milk Supplier Association (ICMSA) have hit out at the EAT-Lancet Commission, comprised of 37 experts from 16 countries, after it proposed a "planetary health diet" that would entail a major change in people’s diets.

ICMSA president, Pat McCormack, said the report forms part of what he described as ‘Open Season’ on farmers, and questioned whether the Lancet report is consistent with previous findings it has published.

He said the same journal released a survey of 135,000 adults in 2017 maintaining that those who cut back on fats have far shorter lives than those who consume butter, cheese and meats.

“Were they right in 2017 and wrong now, or is the other way around?” Mr McCormack said.

“I don’t want to be flippant, but we’re constantly being told that our diets are killing us at the same time as we’re living longer than ever. Both of those statements can’t be right,” he said.

“There’s another point that has to be made, and that’s without even going near the 200,000 Irish jobs that depend on our farming and agri-food sectors. If this is a global problem then what are we doing talking about an ‘Irish’ problem or any other individual nation? If it’s a global problem than the response must be global and that’s going to mean a global move towards producing specific foods in the specific locations most scientifically suitable with least environmental stress."

In Ireland’s case, that means dairy – where we are the most environmentally sustainable on the planet – and beef, where we are in the top five. What’s the point in hampering our production that’s then diverted to producers that have much more environmentally damaging system" Mr McCormack asked.

IFA president, Joe Healy, said it is a ludicrous distraction to suggest that people should have little or no meat and dairy as part of their diet, and that the report fails to take into account the carbon efficiencies achieved by Irish farmers.

“Irish farmers are engaged in climate action. We have very efficient food production systems in Ireland from a climate perspective. We are the most carbon efficient dairy producer in Europe and amongst the top five in beef,” Mr Healy said.

Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Mr Healy said reducing the intake of foods produced in Ireland in favour of products that would be imported would be bad for the environment: “If you take the carbon that will be taken to fly nuts and fly all that’s required if we don't eat meat to Ireland, that will create a lot more emissions."

“We're very proud as Irish farmers have the quality meats that we produce and the carbon efficient way that we produce it,” Mr Healy said.

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