It is appropriate and timely that the joint committee is deliberating on the future of the Irish beef sector considering the recent review by the Conference of Parties, COP, of the UN Climate Change Conference and the publication of the report on climate action of the Joint Committee on Climate Action. The report states there “is a need for a more diversified, resilient, sustainable and equitable model for Irish agriculture”. We all have common cause to ensure a sustainable future for Irish farm families. However, we must also recognise the rising voice of a new generation which is tellling us more stridently that my generation which includes many Oireachtas Members has failed in dealing with the issues of climate action and sustainability. That is also very much the message of the report of the Joint Committee on Climate Action.
It is important when looking at any sector that one move away from silo thinking. That was a key phrase used in the inquiry into the collapse of the Irish banking and financial sector. It was found that there had been too much of an inward looking culture, while lobbying by vested interests had been allowed to prevail in the banking sector. The overarching consideration of the sustainability of the property market and financial debt had simply not been faced up to. Equally, when looking at the beef sector, it is important to take an international perspective on the future of beef consumption when the planet is facing converging challenges and threats. There is a rising global population and a need for equity in access to food calories. There is an injustice, with 820 million people having inadequate food and facing the worst and most immediate risk of climate impact caused by emissions from developed countries, including Ireland. On a per capita basis, Ireland actually has high emissions. Last year, at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poland, an international rating was published to show how developed countries were performing in dealing with the issue of climate action.
Out of 57 developed countries that were rated, Ireland performed worst in the EU and was down in 48th place in with some of the worst carbon polluters.
When we consider the future of all sectors, including beef, we must take an overview. We must consider what is the future of all the beef sector, not only in Ireland but in the other major beef producing countries, including Brazil, South America in general, the USA, Australia and Europe. In the developed world obesity, food waste and diseases of affluence are arising and very high levels of red meat consumption have been identified by the World Health Organization. There is an imperative now to listen to that voice of the next generation and to what climate science is telling us and to adhere to our commitment under the Paris Agreement to stabilise global temperatures to as near as possible to 1.5° Celsius over pre-industrial levels. That includes methane and nitrous oxide emissions, which are generating 30% of Irish emissions.
The carbon budget is an important concept to be taken into account. Members are all well used to, as we all are, to the annual budget with respect to balancing the books in terms of spending and borrowing but we now must equally consider a national and global carbon budget. The capacity of the atmosphere to absorb carbon, methane and nitrous oxide is limited and needs to be progressively and radically reduced on a yearly basis. That is where the carbon budget comes in and a fair share allocation system is needed between developed countries like Ireland and the developing world. That has been very much the issue in the ongoing international negotiations at UN level in the implementation of the Paris Agreement but that brings a major challenge. Ireland is not alone in this, nor is the beef sector, because practices we had been used to and industries that had developed over a period of time are no longer compatible with meeting those climate targets. I point to coal producing areas in Germany or the United States and major industrial cities such as Stuttgart which have been dependent on the internal combustion engine car manufacturers. They face challenges as much as we do in Ireland. We have already encountered this in dealing with the phasing out of peat for electricity generation, which the ESB and Bord na Móna propose to do by 2027 with a progressive reduction.
In that context, a very important concept, that of a just transition, must be recognised, and we should think of "just transition" in capital letters. It has been very much the theme of the UN conferences over the years with respect to the way to address the challenge of sectors or geographical areas whose economic base or particular operation needs to change to meet the carbon budget. However, in agriculture there is a major opportunity to do this because the Common Agricultural Policy represents a significant budgetary input at EU level and down to national level that can be used to redirect agriculture from higher carbon emitting food production models to those with a lower carbon impact.
Not only does Ireland, as a developed country, need to face up to its obligations on climate action, we should be a world leader because even though Ireland is a small country, we like to think of ourselves as being a leader in many other ways.
We are increasingly vulnerable to climate change that is already happening. Average temperatures are rising and the ocean is warmer, generating higher potential risk of storm conditions coming across the Atlantic in future years. Hurricane Ophelia is a possible foretaste of what we may be facing in the future. In 2015 we also faced a drought. One climatic year can be related to global climate change or human-caused emissions, but all the climate modelling carried out by Met Éireann and the EPA, which works in conjunction with the UN and international climate modelling, projects that annual rainfall, when aggregated, may not change much on an annual basis, but there could be more variability, leading to more intense periods of high rainfall at some points in the year and longer period of low rainfall, as we experienced last year. That affected all sectors of agriculture, including grains, vegetable crops and fruit, as much as grassland. However, grassland was certainly affected. Looking at the figures it is clear that we had a serious fodder crisis which resulted in a 25% increase in animal feed, which was up to 4 million tonnes in 2018 from 3 million tonnes in 2017. That pressure, of course, extended across Europe. We are very dependent on imported animal feed when compared with other EU countries. The UK, for instance, imports 37% of its animal feed, France imports 27% and Germany 26%. Ireland is twice as dependent and imports two thirds of its animal feed.
It is not for me to speak for the members, but there will clearly be serious engagement between this committee and actions recommended in the Joint Committee on Climate Action report. Apart from climate emissions, Irish agriculture, and beef and diary in particular, especially in the more intensive areas as opposed to the upland areas where there are fewer inputs, is having multiple and very problematic impacts. Ireland is continuing to perform poorly on water quality. Agriculture represents the largest single adverse impact on water quality, followed by urban wastewater treatment. EPA data show that there is a continued deterioration of high-status water in Ireland. Although water bodies such as lakes and rivers have been more or less stable over the last ten years, the requirement of the water framework directive to improve water quality is not being met. More recent data that have been produced show the increased fertiliser load that Irish land is using, raises concern that the gain we made in terms of reducing the fertiliser impact on Irish water may be reversed.
Ammonia is a very serious issue that does not get enough attention. There is an ammonia map, submitted in advance to the committee in our main document, which shows that there is a direct relationship between higher concentrations of ammonia and more intensive agriculture. The western seaboard counties, where there are more Atlantic winds and where most hill farming is done, have very low levels, but Ireland is now in breach of EU ammonia limits, and has been since 2016.
Consequently, we are exposed to legal actions. Agriculture accounts for 98% of atmospheric ammonia emissions. Only a couple of weeks ago the European Parliament passed a resolution on the need for concerted action to reduce ammonia emissions, because ammonia interacts with other environmental pollutants, exacerbating a pollutant effect. Ammonia has a health impact, which is felt by workers in intensive agricultural facilities particularly, and also has a very damaging effect on natural ecosystems. There are very graphic reports of the damage that high concentrations of ammonia causes.
We have multiple issues with peat in Ireland, including our failure to follow the scientific advice set out by the EPA in 2011 that we needed to reverse the continued decline in peat levels and the carbon loss and emissions that was causing. We still have an exit date for electricity which is still too far away. There is a major problem with horticulture and domestic burning. There is an increasing impact through the use of peat bedding for animal housing. That is caused by peat extraction sites that are unregulated and not subjected to environmental impact assessments and are environmentally devastating. They are causing carbon loss, which will have to be accounted for in the land use change accounting system that will come into place under land use, land use change and forestry, LULUCF, after 2027.
We should look at some of the overarching considerations that should apply to climate and food, and beef in particular, and the message we are getting from the United Nations. In 2010 a major UN report, assessing the environmental impact of consumption and production, stated that the western taste for a diet rich in meat and dairy products is unsustainable, and called for a global shift towards a more plant-based diet, which is vital to save the world from hunger, fuel poverty and the worst impacts of climate change. The UN has continued to reiterate this message, including most recently in the November 2018 report which we have cited. We need to take seriously the major peer reviewed scientific studies that are taking place on a multi-disciplinary and multinational level on the future of food production and its interface with climate, meeting the challenges of a rising population, and equity and fairly sharing food calories across the world, as well as the issue of healthy diets. Such a study was published in Nature last year. A newspaper article following the report said:
Huge reductions in meat eating are essential to avoid dangerous climate change, according to the most comprehensive analysis yet of the food system's impact on the environment. In western countries, beef consumption needs to fall by 90% and be replaced by five times more beans and pulses.
This means that we should be looking at the crops we can grow that are compatible with our climate. I will turn to that in my concluding recommendations. The EAT-Lancet report was cited earlier by one of the Deputies. This is one of, if not the most, significant global overview by a multi-disciplinary science, nutrition, health and climate expert and research based team that has been published to date.
It has been independently funded from a number of sources because there is often criticism that reports on food or a particular sector may be biased. A universal healthy reference diet is quoted in the report as being "based on an increase in consumption of healthy foods (such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts), and a decrease in consumption of unhealthy foods (such as red meat, sugar, and refined grains) that would provide major health benefits, and also increase the likelihood of attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals".
That is an overview of the introduction to the report. Turning to specific findings, they include:
The dietary shift that is needed requires a dramatic reduction of consumption of unhealthy foods, such as red meat, by at least 50%, with a recommended daily combined intake of 14 g (in a range that suggests total meat consumption of no more than 28 g/day) with variations in the change required according to region.
Therefore, it is not stated red meat must be given up entirely. The recommendation is for a reduction in the consumption of red meat per person. The report goes on to state "at the same time, an overall increase in consumption of more than 100% is needed for legumes, nuts, fruit, and vegetables, with the changes needed again varying according to region".
Another important concept I would like to introduce to the committee is that of planetary boundaries. It comes from the international scientific community. To understand it, we must think of what is probably the most famous photograph in history. I refer to the view captured by the camera of the Apollo looking back at the Earth from the moon. We must face up to the fact that the Earth is finite and has a rising population. We need to avoid crossing certain thresholds and boundaries if we are to sustain population projections of up to 10 billion people on the planet by mid-century, stabilise our climate and have fairness and global equity in the rights set out in the sustainable development goals. I refer to clean water, health and well-being and a fair share of global food calories for everyone on the planet. To meet these boundaries, we have to limit carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide emissions into the atmosphere. We have to reverse biodiversity loss because food production is dependent on pollination and soil quality which, in turn, is dependent on worm life and microbes. We also have to ensure land system use does not cause further pressures, protect freshwater and limit nitrogen and phosphorus flows. Therefore, we have to come up with a development and food model that will not exceed those planetary boundaries. A detailed illustration of the planetary boundary model is provided in our main presentation documents already supplied to the committee. It was produced by the Stockholm Resilience Centre and is gaining global recognition in the scientific community.
The EAT-Lancet report embraced these planetary boundaries. It examined how to achieve equitable food production and stay within all of the boundaries. It also looked at meeting the challenges of malnutrition in deprived parts of the world and obesity in the developed world, including increases in associated diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular issues.
The report is not prescriptive. It is a reference report and marks the beginning of a major debate. A page from the medical journal The Lancet, with a bar chart, has been taken out of context. With what everybody needs to engage is this very challenging EAT-Lancet report. We have already had an opportunity to engage on it at a meeting held by An Taisce and members of other environmental organisations in Ireland.
We move on to the international external rating of Ireland by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, global livestock environmental assessment model, GLEAM. We often hear from all levels of the agriculture sector that Ireland is a world leader in the carbon-efficient production of beef and dairy produce, or at least that the production system has a lower carbon impact than that in many other countries, including within Europe. It is a point much used in the international marketing of Irish beef and dairy produce. However, the carbon efficiency of Irish agriculture has been entirely debunked by GLEAM. A full life cycle analysis that considered all externalities and pathways revealed that Ireland was actually the most carbon-intensive beef producer in Europe and had the third highest emissions in Europe from the dairy sector. This is going to cause serious trouble, particularly for those of us who get our farming news every week from a certain major national newspaper. GLEAM reveals that the data on which the marketing of Irish agriculture relies are out of date in many places. The data also do not address rising emissions and other sources such as ammonia and nitrates. This is not just a matter for the Irish agriculture sector. It is an international matter because of Ireland's responsibility as a developed country to undertake responsible production in the context of climate action. Thus it is a matter for all Irish citizens. The future of Irish food production is not just a matter for those directly involved in the sector or those directly employed in rural communities. Let us remember all those involved in the network of food distribution and the serving of finished products, from shops to restaurants. The total number employed in the food sector overall is startling.
In 2017 the Citizens' Assembly specifically considered how the State could make Ireland a leader in tackling climate change. It made 13 recommendations in that regard. On beef production, 89% of the members of the Citizens' Assembly recommended a tax on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. It is important, however, to remember that the assembly also recommended that farmers be rewarded for land management that sequestered carbon and that the revenue raised from a tax on greenhouse gas emissions be reinvested to support climate-friendly agricultural practices. That is the gain and the benefit. A total of 80% of the members of the assembly also stated they would be in favour of paying higher taxes on carbon-intensive activities.
Let us look at what is happening. Two graphs are important in understanding these issues. They are supplied by Teagasc and were updated at the beginning of the year.
The first concerns agricultural emissions, while the second concerns nitrogen fertiliser inputs. We have heard, correctly, from the Irish agriculture sector that current emission levels have not risen since 1990, or that they are at least the same since 1990. The graph indicates that there was a rise up to 2000 and that there was then a significant decline between 2000 and 2010 due to a combination of factors, particularly the nitrates directive which required the more efficient application of nitrate fertiliser, although it also makes good farm management sense to use nitrate fertiliser more efficiently. There was also a spike in fertiliser prices, such that everybody became very mindful of fertiliser costs. That was a major factor in the reduction of fertiliser use as can be seen in the second graph.
We can also look at what happened after 2010. We have had Food Harvest 2020, Food Wise 2025 and the lifting of milk quotas. The Teagasc figures demonstrate a rise in 2011 and an upward trajectory from 2010, but the figures were always behind and it was only in December last year that we received the 2017 figures. They demonstrated a significant rise, with agricultural emissions rising by 2.9% in that year. If that trend continues, the annual average will be a 3% increase indicated by the red arrow in the documentation. Teagasc has modelled what we can do about this, looking at various emissions abasement scenarios that will be very well known to people involved the agriculture sector or members of the carbon soil or fertiliser management groups. It also examined the potential for carbon offsetting. All of these measures only deliver marginal variations in a continued increase in emissions, including a small reduction that would bring us to 2015 levels by 2030. The reality is that when we look at the global carbon budget and the equitable Irish share of it, the trajectory in which agriculture needs to move, both globally and in Ireland, equates to a rapid descent, not just with a distant 2050 target but immediately, with a rapid 2030 reduction target. Equally, members can see parallel figures for nitrogen fertiliser imports, with a spike in 2000 and a very significant overall decline between 2000 and 2010, after which there was much jumping up and down, with rising figures in 2018. Various Teagasc scenarios demonstrate rising fertiliser impacts. It leads to rising NOx emissions, with an impact on nature and water quality that will cause enormous difficulties in the future.
Teagasc has become concerned about this issue. I cited a major national newspaper which carried the heading "Greenwashing Could Backfire" on a report on 2 April 2019. It is worth quoting in full:
Irish agriculture needs to back up its "green" image with credible evidence rather than "glamour stories", Teagasc has warned. "We've seen problems in other countries where they resort to glamour stories and greenwashing on biodiversity performance - that has major repercussions and backfires very quickly," Teagasc researcher and ecologist John Finn told the Farming Independent. "In (Bord Bia's) Origin Green we are making very strong claims about sustainable performance and environmental performance that is creating a need for credible demonstration of sustainability - the industry needs credible evidence rather than glamour stories. If we are to continue with the sustainability claims that we are a clean, green food producing nation, we need to prove it. Other organisations outside of Ireland will be very quick to pounce on claims that we make."
This is a very serious issue with respect to marketing. In certain legal jurisdictions, if a claim is made for a particular product, whether it be food, a service or goods of any sort, and that claim is not substantiated, a legal action could arise in that jurisdiction. I will not name the parties involved, but a legal action has arisen in the United States with respect to the advertising, branding and labelling of a major Irish food exporter. At national court level, the Irish national mitigation plan is facing a legal challenge from Climate Case Ireland. The hearing of that case in the High Court before Mr. Justice McGrath was earlier this year and the judgment is awaited. There is mounting convergence of climate litigation that is happening internationally and the rate is rising. To date, it has focused on fossil fuel interests, but in countries like the Netherlands there is also a focus on agricultural impacts. The committee can look at what has happened in the Netherlands where there has been destocking to meet nitrate objectives, in particular. Legal action is a potential outcome, not just with respect to climate but also with respect to ammonia, air pollution, water quality and a series of other areas. All sectors of the industry sector should be mindful of this.
We can turn to the recently published report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action that highlights something of which all of us are fully aware. It is Ireland's complete failure to meet its 2020 emissions reduction targets by such a wide margin. The committee has stated the State must ensure emissions will decrease rapidly in line with the national target of net zero emissions by 2050 and in line with the recent analysis of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report calls for five-year carbon budgets consistent with the emissions reductions pathway to 2030 and 2050 targets, which is to be welcomed. I quoted the overarching recommendation which we commend as the overarching consideration to be embraced in looking to the future not just of the beef sector but all Irish agriculture sectors. The committee has indicated a "need for a more diversified, resilient, sustainable and equitable model for Irish agriculture" as it recognises that Irish agriculture has become overly reliant on emissions-intensive beef and dairy production. It has observed that "Ireland cannot meet its international emissions targets without tackling agricultural sector emissions".
I know that this is very challenging, but we are not alone. All across the world people involved in the agriculture and energy sectors, as well as communities dependent on coal mining and cities dependent on car manufacturing, have to meet the challenge of the change that needs to be faced and addressed if we are to stabilise emissions and maintain a living planet. This means that voices should be listened to by public representatives.
Obviously, they must hear what an industry or a sector says to them. That applies to food retailers and producers. We do not have a car manufacturing industry in Ireland, but we do have a motor industry covering car sales and maintenance. It also applies to the energy industry. Public representatives have a duty, in the public interest, to move beyond considering representations made by individual vested sectoral interests. I am not singling out the agriculture sector in that regard. Unfortunately, it is in the nature of any industry or interest group to be daunted by change and global pressures. Major historical changes proved devastating for Ireland. This was a major linen producing country in the 18th and 19th centuries. We grew flax and provided massive employment in the manufacture of linen, not only in the North of Ireland but all the way across the west, including County Mayo, the midlands and the greater Dublin area. Cheap cotton imports from across the world destroyed the linen industry. We were major grain exporters until the mid-19th century, as can be seen from all of the ruined mills throughout the country. North American grain was imported after the reform of the corn laws. A more recent experience with which we will all be familiar is that associated with the beet crop, particularly in the south east where I grew up and my cousins were directly involved as growers. We now import sugar which is manufactured from sugar cane from South America. Our lifestyle and demand for sugar are causing problematic environmental impacts on the climate as a result of deforestation.
This is a tough message about to what we need to face up in developing a sustainable national herd and it is not just coming from our organisation. It is a global message. We are just the communicators. All too often, to use the well known phrase, we shoot the messenger. We are advocates for an international message which has been accredited by science. In our submission we mention the fact that the 30 environmental NGOs in Ireland, of which An Taisce is just one, form the Irish Environmental Network. They have entered into a partnership with international development organisations such as Christian Aid Ireland and Trócaire through Stop Climate Chaos. In 2016 Stop Climate Chaos published a very significant report entitled, Not So Green. It highlights what Teagasc now describes as the major emerging challenges in the marketing of Irish agricultural produce and the reality about climate change, emissions and the environmental impacts. The data show that things have not got better since, as they should have. They have become significantly more problematic.
It is not just an environmental sustainability issue. In the earlier session it was most useful and engaging for us to hear about the enormous economic sustainability challenge facing the beef sector, particularly the suckler cow sector, and the pressures on family farm incomes in Ireland. We are entirely sympathetic. There is no "us and them"; there are no opposing sides. We all wish to see a common solution and work in common cause to have an inhabited, working, food producing Irish landscape, with family farms, in the future. As we heard from all of the representatives of the farm sector, the current situation is challenging.
It is dependent on Common Agricultural Policy, CAP, payments, on which the beef sector, particularly the suckler cow sector, is entirely dependent. That is a challenge we would like to address constructively.
We would really like the result of this session and ongoing engagement with the committee to be planning for alternatives. I refer to increasing agricultural emissions, ammonia, water quality decline, animal feed impacts, nitrogen fertiliser imports, stocking rates and poor margins. As mentioned, farmers are up in the middle of the night to keep their traditional lifestyle. They are not getting the economic benefits of that tough lifestyle.
There is a common attitude which we have encountered many times that the environment is something to think about after adopting economic and production-led targets. That was the flaw in Food Wise 2025, although it was based on the strategic environmental assessment, SEA, directive. Food Wise 2025 is now open to legal challenge. The SEA directive requires proper monitoring. We can see how bad the data are for biodiversity loss and water ammonia. If there are unforeseen adverse impacts, Article 10 of the SEA directive provides that mitigation and ameliorative measures must be taken. If it is not done through constructive engagement with all of the sectors involved, it will cause more pressures and legal challenges.
The Food Wise 2025 strategy sought to increase beef and dairy exports. In the European market the younger generation shows a rising awareness of sustainability and a rising demand for plant-based food. These consumers are not necessarily seeking a full vegetarian or vegan diet, but they are certainly seeking one with fewer animal products. This means that Ireland is looking to provide that western diet for new international markets. However, there is not enough space available. The planetary boundaries concept shows the problem in expanding that western diet, with the attendant land use and planetary boundaries impacts on a finite planet. We would need two or perhaps three planets to replicate the diet we have in Ireland, Australia, North America and much of Europe. The position in Mediterranean countries is slightly different.
This message has been very well communicated. I recommend to committee members the website of the World Resources Institute which looks at the planetary boundaries concept and the idea of a footprint analysis. The footprint of somebody in sub-Saharan Africa, reflecting the water and resources he or she uses, can be compared with that of somebody in a developed country, reflecting his or her food choices, lifestyle, mode of transport and clothes. We simply do not have the planetary capacity required. We are now at tipping point of global biodiversity loss. We heard the major warning from Sir David Attenborough at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. We face both a convergence of global biodiversity crisis and a climate crisis.
If we are to embrace what the United Nations, the international agencies and independent international science tells us, with the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action's call for a diversified, resilient, sustainable and equitable model for Irish agriculture, we need to transition to lower input land use, including reviving tillage that is climate compatible because it is obviously facing competition challenges, with lower production costs in other countries, as well as climate challenges; horticulture, agri-forestry, permanent woodlands and energy and carbon sequestration crops. We see this as the beginning of a process of multi-sectoral engagement because not enough research is being conducted in Ireland. With New Zealand, Teagasc is a world leader in grassland research. It carries out its research at Moorepark in Fermoy. We have decades of world leadership research in grassland yields, but we have not been conducting the research on the type of food crops to which the EAT-Lancet Commission and global science on dietary recommendations say we need to move for low carbon and other reasons. Crops that are suitable for Ireland include oats for oatmeal and oat milk. Other types of milk, apart from dairy, also raise major sustainability issues. Almond milk production has an enormous water footprint in places like California. Moving to large-scale almond milk production as an alternative to bovine milk is not the answer either. Soya is very problematic because of its production sources, monoculture and production in Brazil, the United States and other countries. We are importing soya in animal feed. We are also importing it for environmentally conscious individuals who want to move to a plant based diet which is challenging and difficult in terms of sustainability, planetary boundaries and global threshold issues. Many of the alternative milk products are problematic in different ways. As I said, soya, in particular, is problematic.
We need to consider cultivating more plant based food, as we did in the past in Ireland. I was born in the 1950s and my father worked in the leather industry. My two grandmothers were raised on farms and my cousins were in farm families. Several of my first cousins in the south east continue to farm, almost entirely in the beef and dairy sectors. When I was growing up, farm enterprises were more diversified. There were orchards behind farmhouses, mixed vegetable growing, chickens and so on. Let us look at the figures for imports, which are shocking. In 2017 we imported 72,000 tonnes of potatoes, 47,000 tonnes of onions, 29,000 tonnes of tomatoes, 23,000 tonnes of cabbage and 15 tonnes of lettuce. We need to reverse this problem and increase research on other foods. The global orange crop is under a climate challenge, while rising sea levels in Florida are causing desalination in groundwater. This means that we need to examine alternative sources of vitamin C. The hedgerows of Ireland are rich in elderberries and blackberries, while our peat soil is ideal for growing blueberries. We need to examine the potential for growing blueberries and to produce honey and nuts which are high nutrition sources. In the food science advice from the Department of Health there has been a lot of misrepresentation in that regard.
We have seen a lot of media coverage in the last week to the effect that the eating of meat is not necessary to have a balanced diet. The food pyramid document produced by Healthy Ireland and endorsed by the Department of Health on food proteins is emphatic in stating meat consumption is not necessary to have a balanced diet for proteins. It states peas, beans and lentils provide good quality protein and are a low fat, high fibre alternative to meat. The Department of Health's report reflects the international data that indicate that meat is not a necessary requirement to have a balanced diet. There is a huge dilemma for those looking for alternatives. We are importing lentils, nuts and other products from countries across the world, including the Middle East, North Africa and Asia, which also face increasing climate stress levels. We need to examine how we can produce vegetable plant based protein products in Ireland.
We are in this together and everybody needs to work together on solutions. Ireland is not alone in facing this challenge. It is a global challenge. Ireland's history in the co-operative movement was mentioned. We need to look to a new movement of co-operative action in terms of the future we need to embrace together in reversing climate emissions and biodiversity loss and producing healthy mixed diet foodstuffs and food exports that meet genuine sustainability requirements such that we will not be accused of green-washing.