Reducing Meat Consumption can Reduce the Risk of the Next Pandemic

Zoonotic diseases are nothing new and are often the cause of large outbreaks which cause great harm to humans and other animals. It’s speculated that the recent COVID-19 coronavirus popped into existence due to close animal – human contact in Chinese wet markets. History as shown us that wherever there is frequent, close contact between animals and humans there is an increase in the likelihood of new diseases. This has led to scientists calling for reduced meat conniption with the thinking that if eat less meat than the potential for human-animal transmission is reduced in markets and processing facilities.

This shouldn’t be that big of a challenge since people are already reducing their meat consumption and in Canada 10% of the population is vegetarian or vegan.

It is clear that the origins of these pandemics are not restricted to certain countries or certain practices, such as “wet-markets.” For some researchers, including Swedish chief physician and infectious diseases professor Björn Olsen, stemming rising demand for meat and dairy is a necessary part of reducing our risk for pandemics.

Olsen, who is well known for being an early critic of his government’s COVID-19 response, is now becoming known for another early warning — one he has been making in books and articles for nearly 10 years now. In a recent interview in Swedish, Olsen notes that pandemic viruses have all arisen where animals and humans meet, and raising billions of animals as food will have effects.

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Urban Farming Helps Cities Tackle the Climate Crisis

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Growing your own food is fun and possible, even in a tiny space, so everyone should give it a try. Cities are finding ways to encourage more people to grow food locally for a variety of reasons, and they all revolve around dealing with climate change. Cities become more resilient to climate change thanks to the benefits from an increase in urban farming. Those benefits range from local cooling effects from growing plants to the more serious food supply issues felt around the world. There’s no better time than now to try your hand at starting a small food garden.

Apart from private backyard gardens, urban gardening includes larger community gardens, allotment areas and building rooftops that allow people who don’t have backyards to also grow food. Ryerson University in downtown Toronto operates a rooftop farm on its engineering building that has a little under a quarter acre of growing space.

In that little space in the middle of the crowded city, the farm grows about 4,500 kilograms of food every year that supplies the university community and local chefs.

Growing significant amounts of food within the city is not necessarily a new concept. Karen Landman, a professor at the University of Guelph who researches urban gardening, says agriculture used to be a part of North American cities before being gradually zoned out of urban areas after the First World War.

“It’s actually a very old practice,” she said. “There is a lot of land where it could be turned into food production. And if we really had to, we could produce a lot of food. There are other cities in the world where urban agriculture is the primary source of food for many people.”

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Plant Based Diets Reduce Mortality, Increase Environmental Wellbeing

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Obviously, a diet change to consume less meat is good for animal mortality but what you might not know is that a mass shift to plant based diet is good for everyone’s health. New research has identified that the pollution caused by meat production is responsible premature death of over 17,000 in the USA alone. Therefore, the more people who reduce their meat consumption the less harm will be done to people. Perhaps it’s time to cut subsidies to pollution intensive farms as we aim to reduce pollution and carbon output.

Yes, this is a global problem which requires systemic changes; however, you can do something about by simply switching your beef patties for any plant based ones.

The researchers estimated air quality deaths related to 95 different agricultural commodities in the United States, using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Subsequently, they estimated the per-unit annual impact of 67 products from 11 food groups. Products ranged from beef to beans.

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Canada’s New Budget Support Climate Friendly Farming

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This week the Canadian government announced the new budget and in it are some climate-friendly moves. Farmers in Canada who practice sustainable farming practices are going to get a little more help and farmers who are using unsustainable practices will be encouraged to change what they do. Industrial farming is horrible for the environment, and arguably bad for people, so anything we can do to avoid it is helpful. The 20th century witnessed the overuse of fertilizers to make up for unsustainable industrial farming.

Reducing the use of nitrogen fertilizer sits at the heart of those recommendations — as it does in the federal budget. When applied to fields in excess, nitrogen fertilizer is broken down by microbes into nitrous oxide, explained Sean Smukler, a professor of soil science at the University of British Columbia.

That greenhouse gas is roughly 300 times more potent than CO2 and accounts for roughly half of Canada’s agricultural emissions. But soil testing and agronomic support — both of which are also funded in the budget — can help farmers substantially reduce their fertilizer use.

Money will also be available to help farmers plant cover crops and use rotational grazing. Both practices promote soil health, carbon sequestration and better long-term productivity. In the short-term, however, implementing them can be too expensive for many farmers already stretched thin by high costs and low revenues.

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Happy International Year of Fruits and Vegetables

The old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” is really all about having a healthy diet to stay healthy, and this is the year to increase your apple consumption. 2021 is International Year of Fruits and Vegetables as celebrated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Use this as inspiration to try some fruit and veggies which you’re curious about and find a new way to cook with them.

Maybe this is the year you plant your own “victory garden” and grow a small amount of produce on your own.

Previously we celebrated the best FAO year: pulses.

Objectives of the IYFV 2021

  1. Raising awareness of and directing policy attention to the nutrition and health benefits of fruits and vegetables consumption;
  2. Promoting diversified, balanced, and healthy diets and lifestyles through fruits and vegetables consumption;
  3. Reducing losses and waste in fruits and vegetables food systems;
  4. Sharing best practices on:
    1. Promotion of consumption and sustainable production of fruits and vegetables that contributes to sustainable food systems;
    2. Improved sustainability of storage, transport, trade, processing, transformation, retail, waste reduction and recycling, as well as interactions among these processes;
    3. Integration of smallholders including family farmers into local, regional, and global production, value/supply chains for sustainable production and consumption of fruits and vegetables, recognizing the contributions of fruits and vegetables, including farmers’ varieties/landraces, to their food security, nutrition, livelihoods and incomes;
    4. Strengthening the capacity of all countries, specially developing countries, to adopt innovative approaches and technology in combating loss and waste of fruits and vegetables.

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What you can do: eat more fruits and veggies! Maybe even start growing some in your garden

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