Thursday, 5 July 2012

New effort to harmonize measurement of livestock's environmental impacts

A new U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO)-led partnership will examine how the environmental impacts of the livestock industry are measured and assessed, a necessary first step in improving the sustainability of this important food production sector, FAO said in a July 4 announcement.
Livestock-raising and the consumption of animal products make a crucial contribution to the economic and nutritional well-being of millions of people around the world — particularly in developing countries, FAO said.
Yet, as the global consumption of meat, dairy products and eggs continues to rise, increasing attention is being paid to the livestock sector's environmental performance - such as the efficiency with which it uses scarce natural resources, its impact on water resources and how it contributes to climate change.
At the recent Rio+20 sustainable development conference, governments agreed on the necessity of making agricultural production more sustainable and stressed, in particular, the need to shift to more sustainable livestock production systems.
Currently, FAO said many different methods are being used to measure and assess the environmental impacts of animal raising, making it difficult to compare results and set priorities for the continuous improvement of environmental performance along supply chains.
"We must establish a shared understanding of how to assess the environmental performance of the livestock sector," said Pierre Gerber, a senior FAO livestock policy officer. "The goal is to improve that performance, and create more sustainable forms of production that will continue to provide food and income. To do that, we need reliable quantitative information on key environmental parameters along livestock supply chains, as an evidence base from which to drive improvements."
FAO said it and governmental, private sector and non-governmental partners will work together on a number of fronts to strengthen the science of environmental benchmarking of livestock supply chains.
Activities planned for the initial three-year phase of the project include:
* Establishing science-based methods and guidelines on how to quantify livestock's carbon footprint, covering various types of livestock operations and rearing systems;
* Creating a database of greenhouse gas emission factors generated for the production of different kinds of animal feed — feed production and use offer significant opportunities for reducing livestock emissions.
* Developing a methodology for measuring other important environmental pressures, such as water consumption and nutrient losses.
* Initiating a communications campaign to promote use of the partnership's methodologies and findings.
Among the founding members of the partnership are: the governments of France, Ireland, the Netherlands and New Zealand, The European Feed Manufacturers' Federation, the International Feed Industry Federation, American Feed Industry Assn., the European Vegetable Oil & Proteinmeal Industry, the International Dairy Federation, the International Meat Secretariat, the International Egg Commission, the International Poultry Council, the International Federation for Animal Health and the World Wildlife Fund.
That core membership is expected to expand over the coming months, FAO noted.
FAO estimates that demand for livestock products will continue to intensify over the decades to come. Meat consumption is projected to rise nearly 73% by 2050; dairy consumption will grow 58% over current levels.
"This is a vital and necessary first step in improving the sustainability of this important food production sector," said Dr. Frank Mitloehner from the University of California-Davis, representing the feed industry, who has been elected as the chairman of this partnership for the first year.
On starting his one-year chairmanship, Mitloehner highlighted that "the FAO offer to facilitate dialogue among the private sector, governments and (non-governmental organizations) as an important step to bring together all available expertise on the latest advances in (lifecycle assessment) research."
Mitloehner said he believes "this will help bring about a robust, harmonized methodological approach on measuring (greenhouse gas) emissions linked to livestock production, which would be a tremendous step forward in helping feed companies to develop credible and consistent (lifecycle assessment) calculation tools."
Original Article Here

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