From Farm to Fork
03 December 2009
Ireland can become a world leader in sustainable agriculture and food production by 2020, under an ambitious new initiative proposed to government today. This report is available for download here.
The Dublin-based Institute of International and European Affairs brought together leading experts from across the agri-food sector to prepare a strategy to reduce the carbon footprint of Irish agriculture in the coming decade.
The programme: “From Farm to Fork – A Sustainability Enhancement Programme for Irish Agriculture” is the result of this initiative.
This forward-looking programme is an attempt to address the enormous challenges that face the Irish agri-food sector in the period to 2020, including climate change and resource depletion. The agriculture sector, responsible for 40% of “domestic sector” emissions, must contribute to the national target of a minimum 20% cut by 2020, while simultaneously responding to a predicted increase in worldwide demand for food.
The report argues that these issues, if addressed proactively, can enhance both the competitiveness and the sustainability of the sector in the period to 2020.
Senior figures from Irish agriculture, food processing and food retailing have worked with scientists and economists to identify practical measures to reduce the environmental impact at every stage of food production - from “farm” right through to “fork”.
The programme identifies a range of practical measures that can be implemented on farm including:
· Measures to displace fossil fuel-based fertilizers (such as cover);
· Earlier finishing times for beef cattle to reduce livestock methane emissions;
· Earlier slurry application timing to reduce methane emissions from stored manure; and
· Increasing levels of forestry to sequester emissions.
Recommendations to enhance the sustainability of the food-processing sector include:
· Development of industry-wide carbon footprinting tools;
· A range of measures to increase on-site energy efficiency;
· Cooperation with retailers to reduce waste and packaging; and
· Measures to increase water use efficiency.
Recommendations for enhancing retail sustainability include:
· Increasing in-store energy efficiency;
· Introduction of “sustainable sourcing” initiatives;
· Cooperating with producers to reduce packaging; and
· Carbon labelling for products.
These recommendations have been proposed by the working groups for adoption on farms, in factories and in retail outlets.
Michael Dowling – former Secretary General of Ireland’s Department of Agriculture and now Head of Agri Strategy at Allied Irish Bank, chair of the group’s steering committee, commented that
“The potential benefits to the Irish food sector of taking a proactive approach on the issue of sustainability might include building market position over the medium to long term and an enhancement of our reputation ’’.
IIEA Senior Researcher Joseph Curtin, who sat on the steering committee, said those involved in the project recognized the scale of the challenge and its huge importance to the country, but also emphasized the opportunity.
“We see sustainable food production as a big opportunity for the country in the carbon constrained world of tomorrow” he said, “Now we need the vision, and a deep commitment to transformation in the sector, to make it happen”.
Steering committee members:
Michael Dowling, AIB; Jill Donoghue, IIEA; Senator Feargal Quinn; Frank O’Mara, Teagasc; Aidan Cotter, Bord Bia; Brendan Kearney, agricultural economist; Sean O’Leary, IFA; Michael Barry, FDII/IBEC; and Joseph Curtin, IIEA.?
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