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Weekly Overview: Already Too Late to Conserve Precious Resources?

19 January 2015

GLOBAL - With a growing human population, we need to use natural resources very carefully in order to maintain - let alone improve - the quality of life for future generations. A new study shows meat output, for example, passed its peak growth rate a decade ago. The world's leading companies seem now to be awareness of their responsibilities and taking action, while the anaerobic digestion sector explains how it can also play a role in improving sustainability.

New research reveals that many key world resources have already passed their peak.

As the world's resources face enormous challenges, researchers from the US and Denmark have analysed the production and extraction rates of 27 global renewable and non-renewable resources (including fish, meat and milk) and found that many of the resources reached their peak a few years ago.

In the study, they examined 20 renewable resources, such as maize, rice, wheat and soybeans as well as animal products, such as fish, meat, milk and eggs.

For 18 of these renewable resources, the annual growth rate (for example, the increase in meat production or in fish catch) reached its peak – the peak-rate year – around 2006.

One of the authors of the report, Professor Ralf Seppelt from the Helmholtz Centre For Environmental Research (UFZ), said: "Experts see opportunities for further increases in agricultural yield of about one to two per cent per year due to better breeding techniques and genetically modified organisms."

But then it will be tight. He added: "The global community needs to accept that renewable raw materials are also reaching their yield limits worldwide."

The challenges of sustainability are also faced by commercial companies in the food sector.

Francesca DeBiase, Vice President for Strategic Sourcing, Sustainability at McDonald's, said her company's vision is to source all of its food and products sustainably.

"[Sustainability] is a journey – there is no ending," she said in an interview recently.

Following recent criticism about the sustainability of anaerobic digestion (AD), the UK’s Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association told ThePigSite: "It is important to keep the use of bioenergy crops for AD in proper perspective. According to the latest Defra statistics released on 25 November 2014, the total maize area accounts for 0.5 per cent of England’s total arable area and in turn just 17 per cent of this – 0.085 per cent of the total – is used for AD.

“Rather than reducing the amount of agricultural land in production, AD crops can form a crucial component of a sustainable agricultural rotation, by making break and cover crops economic while maintaining and enhancing biodiversity. In reality, crops grown for AD can, therefore, aid the economic and environmental sustainability of farming operations and make a substantive contribution to the UK’s goals for low-carbon energy."

Jackie Linden

Jackie Linden

Top image via Shutterstock



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