Discussion And Conclusions

To make food production more sustainable, a stepwise improvement is required, a so-called transition (Green et al., 1999; Weaver et al., 2000). In the past many food transitions have taken place (Grigg, 1995), but they always evolved passively, as products of a multitude of chance factors. In particular a transition from animal to plant protein would be highly beneficial to the environment, due to the inherently inefficient conversion step from plant protein to animal protein (Aiking and Vellinga, 2000; Delgado et al., 1999; Smil, 2000). It is currently thought in The Netherlands that active transition management should be sought by the government (Kemp and Loorbach, 2003). However, many actors are involved, all of which will perceive their own barriers and opportunities. Aiking (2003) identified at least four barriers to such a transition towards decoupling protein production from concomitant environmental impacts:

• social forces opposing change are strong, because meat has a high status (Beardsworth and Keil, 1997);

• economic forces opposing change are strong, because established interests in the meat chain are powerful;

• technological know-how on novel (plant) protein foods is lacking; and

• for centuries the meat chain has been optimised for exhaustive use of all byproducts, potentially offsetting a large part of the theoretical environmental gain.

Consequently, important actors include consumers, retailers, food processors, farmers, NGOs and policymakers. Interestingly, opportunities and obstacles for a transition turn out to be strongly different depending on the level (from local to global). In Asia, for example, incentives, crops and consumer taste are different. Therefore, regional approaches to a protein transition are called for (Aiking, 2003).

The present chapter demonstrates that, from an environmental point of view, there is no doubt that Novel Protein Foods are environmentally more friendly than meat. But the real environmental benefits of NPFs depend on their acceptance by the consumers. Even in developed countries, only a minority of the consumers is prepared to avoid meat and if they do, health issues are a much stronger underlying motivation than environmental issues (Beardsworth and Bryman, 2004). In contrast, in developing countries the proportion of meat in the diet is rising rapidly (Bruinsma, 2002). Our economic analysis indicates that if only the 'rich' consumers switch to consume more NPFs to replace part of all meat, the meat production and the concomitant emissions will hardly be reduced because of increasing demand of meat of 'low income' and 'middle income' consumers in developing countries. So NPFs only offer a partial solution for reducing environmental emissions (by less than 1%, unless all meat were replaced with NPFs entirely and all over the world).

Therefore, in a consumer-driven economy, stimulating consumers' environmental concern and changing consumers' behaviour are essential to achieve a transition from animal protein foods to plant protein foods. Another option for reducing the environmental emissions from agriculture may be found in environmental policies such as tradable emission permits for greenhouse gases and local emission bounds for local pollutants. Although it may be difficult to implement these policies in practice, they may turn out to be more effective and achieve a higher level of emission reduction than the simulated change in consumer preferences.

LCA shows that a transition from animal to plant protein might result in a threefold lower requirement of agricultural land and freshwater. World-wide, there is potential for an additional reduction in water use by at least another factor of 10. The geographic location of these and other environmental benefits will, however, depend very much on the actual selection of crops to be used as raw materials. Crop growth modelling was applied to pea growth under 3 different soil water availability scenarios. The results suggested that in the EU with low resource input high pea crop yields could be anticipated in Scandinavia (in addition to current production in France and the UK). The same model can be used for other protein crops, thus revealing optimal geographic locations for sustainable protein production.

Finally, a study on protein crop options argued that, in Europe, potential raw materials might include lupin, pea, quinoa, triticale, lucerne, grasses, rapeseed/-canola and potato, and that outside Europe at least soy should be added. However, the feasibility to be a suitable source for NPFs was shown to be an insufficient condition. Since just 20-40% of the seeds is protein, extra waste from the nonprotein fraction (up to 80% of the crop) would largely offset the potential 4-6 fold environmental gain from replacing indirect (meat) with direct plant protein consumption. Therefore, useful application of the non-protein fraction is indispensable to a protein transition, and should influence crop selection. As a general result, oil crops seem preferable over starchy crops with regard to biofuel production. In this respect, it was evident that combining sustainable production of protein and energy in one crop would simultaneously mitigate agricultural resource depletion, agricultural pollution, as well as climate change.

In summary, first the necessity and impacts of a protein transition was substantiated by economic-environmental modelling. Second, the expected concomitant geographic location of land-use changes in Europe was addressed by crop growth modelling. Third, alternative crop options were dealt with and led to the conclusion that combining sustainable production of protein and energy could effectively be combined and would benefit both agricultural resource depletion and pollution, and climate change. Taken together, these three projects provide us with a preview of environmentally desirable changes in consumption patterns and the concomitant changes to be expected in land-use patterns beyond 2015. Thus, the present chapter contributes to the book's objective to delineate the major interactions between agriculture, climate change and changes in land-use patterns to be expected in the near future. In conclusion, this chapter argues that:

• changes in consumption patterns are required for environmental reasons (including climate change and shortages of agricultural land and freshwater);

• even a partial transition from meat to NPFs would constitute an important step in that direction;

• such a transition will lead to huge changes in land-use during one generation (20 years);

• the location of these land-use changes depends on the crop choice; and the crop choice depends on the demands for both NPFs and biofuel, and is also related to available technology.

Since climate, crop choice, environmental impacts and land use are so clearly and inextricably intertwined, the consequences of a transition will be far-reaching in every respect.

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