Feeding the World Sustainably? - analysis of Irish and EU food nutrition trade balances
Dr Colin Doyle is an associate member of the Environment and Sustainable Development Cluster, Whitaker Institute, NUI Galway.
Dr Doyle conducted a food trade energy analysis for Ireland and the EU on behalf of the An Taisce Climate Change Committee. This analysis was carried out in response to claims made by the Irish food and drink sector that intensification of the Irish beef and dairy sector was environmentally sustainable and justified by the need to meet the nutritional needs of a growing world population. Dr Doyle argues that any scaling up of production needs to be assessed with respect of food security benefits, and implications for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Food energy analysis is a useful technique for exploring the sustainability of agriculture. The technique entails converting all products to their food energy equivalent. One can then use the data to determine whether a country is a net importer or exporter of nutrition. Countries like Ireland which are currently net importers of food nutrition cannot be contributing to global food security. In addition to this by analyzing the GHG intensity of products produced in Ireland and the EU the environmental sustainability of food production systems can be scrutinized. Dr Doyle argues that the dominance of beef and dairy production in Ireland means that Ireland is not contributing to global food security and due to the high GHG intensity of ruminant based agriculture Ireland is exacerbating food security globally by contributing to climate change.
What are the lessons from this food energy analysis? - "Ireland and the EU can contribute to a sustainable global food supply by increasing cereal, oil crop and vegetable production, reducing beef production, and moving away from biofuels."