Tackling agribusiness effectively

Bram Schaper | 14-03-2023

“The farmer is trapped in our food and agricultural system,” said Professor Jan Willem Erisman. That captivity is “encouraged” by a consortium of companies backing it. Their revenue model is that if the farmer produces more, they earn more. More than a million viewers of Lubach’s evening segment heard him express this sentiment during a discussion about “Agri-giants” on Tuesday, March 7.

Agri-giants make billions from today’s farming business in dairy production and animal slaughter. You don’t see or hear them, but they pay big money to use farmers in the background in their protests against the government’s nitrogen strategy. They influence the public debate in a polarizing way behind the scenes and yet refuse to comment when contacted. These Agri-giants are powerful, elusive system-level influencers. It is commendable that Lubach exposed their ways.

What I missed was the other side of this systemic influence. Lubach leaves the viewer informed but somewhat disillusioned. Implicitly, the message seems to be that the system is the way it is. There’s nothing you can do about it.

The opposite is true. You can do something.

No, not by organizing a counter-protest yourself or flying your inverted flag. Not by signing an online petition or platforming farmer sympathizers, either. The most effective way to change this damaging system is to structurally eliminate the demand for animal products. It’s excellent if you can set an example yourself by eating fewer animals (and their derived products), but your approach can be much, much more effective.

There is a non-profit organization that is radically changing our food system: The Good Food Institute. They are working to eliminate demand for animal products and doing so extremely effectively. The Good Food Institute is making the global food system better for our planet, people, and animals. Working with scientists, businesses, and policymakers, GFI teams focus on making plant-based and cultured meats delicious, affordable, and accessible. If you want to do something, support GFI. This is by far your best bet. Why? GFI has been rated time and again as a top-performing organization by independent, scientific research organizations such as Animal Charity Evaluators, Founders Pledge and GivingGreen. GFI uses every euro donated to revamp the current food system most effectively.

How does that work?

I put this question to Stijn Bruers, moral philosopher and rational ethicist. He argues that livestock reduction is inevitable through investment in the development of animal-free proteins such as plant-based meat substitutes, precision fermentation and cell-cultured meat. He argues: “because there is currently too little investment, you can help accelerate that reduction in livestock with a donation to GFI.”

If we look at the current investments and the speed with which animal-free proteins are developed, then with a few hundred euros extra you can speed up the reduction of livestock breeding by roughly one second, because consumers will switch to animal-free alternatives to meat one second faster.

A second does not seem like much, but worldwide more than 2,000 animals are slaughtered every second. In terms of nitrogen emissions, that equates to more than 2 kilograms of reactive nitrogen released into the environment per second from global livestock production. Animal-free protein production releases 10 times less nitrogen into the environment. This means that a one-euro donation to GFI can mitigate roughly 10 kilograms of nitrogen emissions. By comparison, an average Dutch person has a nitrogen footprint of 40 kilograms per year.

I am championing GFI because an alternative to animal protein is essential to meet global climate, health, food security and biodiversity goals. These goals belong to a new system. A system without Agri-giants. If you want to help turn the tide: donate to GFI.

Orange cross