Pingree defends eating meat at ag ‘solutions summit’
Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, on Tuesday defended eating meat at Foreign Policy magazine’s “Food Forever Solutions Summit,” an event geared toward changing food production and consumption practices to address climate change.
When interviewing Pingree, Ravi Agrawal, the managing director of Foreign Policy, remarked that as people in developing countries get richer they want more protein, usually meat, but that there is “no way” to produce enough meat for them.
Pingree responded that the idea that “everyone is going to stop eating meat” is a “simplistic solution” that is not “the answer to everything.”
Pastures sequester carbon, she noted, adding that sustainable ways to raise animals that produce meat should be encouraged.
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“Just to say everyone is going to have a meat subsititute” might require reliance on soybeans grown in rain forests, she said.
Pingree also noted that “meat is high-protein, a dense source of food and nutrition.” She acknowledged that Americans eat a lot of meat and that American diets need to be “balanced.”
But she also said it is “ridiculous” the world has become dependent on only a few commodity groups.
Pingree was the only member of Congress to speak at the conference. House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., were listed on the program, but were not there.
In a series of panel discussions, experts talked about food security, biodiversity and disrupting the food industry.
Thomas Pesek, the senior liaison officer in Washington for the United Nations Food and Agriculture, said he is encouraged that agriculture is now part of the discussion about climate change. Member countries asked FAO to measure emissions so that they can make policy.
Beth Sauerhaft, the vice president of the American Farmland Trust, noted that many young people are going into agricultural technology and that ag investment is “hot.”
Beth Dunford of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Feed the Future program said that there are solutions to climate change such as drought-tolerant maize but they won’t work if they don’t reach the masses. Dunford said that entrepreneurial seed salesmen in Africa are getting those seeds to smallholder farmers.
But Jon Clifton, the global managing partner at Gallup, noted that his company partners with FAO to gather global statistics on hunger and said it is important to recognize that in the last five years the number of hungry people has risen.
“We wouldn’t know that if we weren’t tracking it,” Clifton said. “Policymakers always need to make data-driven decisions.”
At the end of the conference, Andrew Sollinger, the publisher of Foreign Policy, said he was glad food waste is on the global climate change agenda and that he was impressed by the “globality” of the food and agriculture issues.
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