A new white paper released by the Jeremy Coller Foundation argues that the Green Revolution is no longer working and must give way to a more sustainable system.
The Revolution was a period of initiatives that greatly increased agricultural production, and began as a way to address hunger after the Second World War. But though it succeeded in the short-term, the Foundation argues that there are long-term unintended consequences.
In particular, higher crop yields have made it possible to produce ever more meat and dairy products, fuelling a level of demand described as “unhealthy”. In turn, this has paved the way for factory farming, which has huge environmental consequences such as excessive water use, high levels of greenhouse emissions, and pollution.
Intensive farming is also a driver of antibiotic resistance, due to the huge quantities of medications used in an attempt to prevent disease among farmed animals. Additionally, pandemics such as swine flu sometimes originate on factory farms, and there are significant animal welfare issues associated with keeping animals in confined conditions with little or no access to their natural habitats.
According to the report, many of the largest problems now facing humanity can be traced back to the Green Revolution. The authors argue that the Revolution lost its way due to overabundance, greed, continued use of suboptimal practices, and the use of technology to maintain the status quo.
However, the Jeremy Coller Foundation believes that technology could also provide a solution, with new innovations such as plant-based, cultivated, and fermentation-derived proteins helping to reduce demand for animal meat. Considerable investment will be required to drive this transition, along with legislative changes.
The Foundation’s namesake, Jeremy Coller, is an investor and philanthropist who has long been vocal about the need for food system change. He is the managing partner of Coller Capital and the founder of FAIRR, an investor network raising awareness of the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities in the food sector. Coller also helped to found the British Alternative Proteins Association, representing companies that are working to transform the food system.
“With factory farming at its heart, the status quo has now become unsustainable and is in many ways devoid of any semblance of what we today think of as “green”,” says the new report. “What remains of the Green Revolution must urgently give way to an Ever-Green Revolution in which agriculture clearly serves to safeguard rather than threaten the future.”