Substituting animal products for insect protein to help save the planet

Replacing animal-source foods (ASFs) in European diets with novel or future foods (NFFs) — such as cultured milk, insect meal or mycoprotein —  could reduce global warming potential, water use and land use each by over 80%, according to the findings of a modelling study published in Nature Food.

Existing literature on alternative diets, such as vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian, has demonstrated the health and environmental benefits of shifting towards lower meat consumption.

But compared with currently available plant-based protein-rich (PBPR) options, such as legumes, pulses and grains, NFFs — produced through new technologies, such as cell-culturing technologies, or under novel regulatory frameworks — can contain a more complete array of essential nutrients. NFFs also tend to be more land- and water-efficient than existing ASFs.

Rachel Mazac and colleagues applied a linear programming model to identify optimal combinations of ASFs, PBPR options and NFFs with the goal of meeting nutritional adequacy, while minimising global warming potential, as well as water use and land use.

Feasible consumption constraints related to cultural acceptability were also considered, as well as scalability potential.

Overall, the authors found that substituting ASFs in European diets with NFFs (namely insect meal, cultured milk and microbial protein) could reduce all environmental impacts (global warming potential, water use and land use) by more than 80%, while being nutritionally adequate and meeting the constraints for what can be feasibly consumed.

The authors conclude that, besides showing the potential contribution of novel foods towards a more sustainable food system, these findings reveal synergies and trade-offs related to each dietary option within the European context.

Source:  Scimex

New varieties could increase wheat yield by 20 per cent in a changing climate

New wheat varieties, which can be sown deeper to protect them from heat and drought stress, may increase wheat yield by 18 – 20%, according to Australian researchers.

The team used modelling and field data to assess the ability of new wheat varieties under the climate conditions of the past 120 years.

Their study has been published in Nature Climate Change.  

The abstract says:

Wheat yields are threatened by global warming and unreliable rainfall, which increase heat and drought stress. A potential adaptation strategy is to sow earlier and deeper, taking advantage of stored soil water.

However, the short coleoptiles of modern semi-dwarf wheat varieties reduce emergence when sown deep. Novel genotypes with alternative dwarfing genes have longer coleoptiles to facilitate deep sowing, but the yield benefit has been uncertain.

We validated new crop simulation routines with field data to assess the impact of novel genotypes on Australian wheat production. We predict that these genotypes, coupled with deep sowing, can increase national wheat yields by 18–20% under historical climate (1901–2020), without increased yield variability, with benefits also projected under future warming.

These benefits are likely to extend to other dryland wheat production regions globally. Our results highlight the impact of synergy between new genetics and management systems to adapt food production to future climates.

Their study was supported by the CSIRO’s Strategic Investment Project (SIP) ‘SIP268.

Link to research (DOI):10.1038/s41558-022-01305-9

Source:  Scimex

Insect protein has great potential to reduce the carbon footprint of European consumers

The use of insects as food for humans and animals has both the potential to reduce European consumers’ carbon footprint and contribute to reducing incentives for continued soybean cultivation in the Amazon rainforest. However, when compared to feeding insects to farm animals, the direct human consumption of insects has the biggest potential to reduce our consumption-based carbon footprint.

Researchers at the University of Helsinki and LUT University, Finland, have analysed the extent to which insect protein could help to reduce global warming associated with food consumption in Europe. They have especially focused on insect protein use and soybean-protein use in the production of broilers.

The results support previous research suggesting that insect protein has the greatest potential to reduce the food-related carbon footprints of European consumers, if edible insects — such as crickets, flies, and worms — are consumed directly or processed as food. Preparation methods include eating them fresh, or drying and processing them into flour for use in bread or pasta.

“Our results indeed suggest that it is more sustainable to use insect protein for food rather than to use it to replace soybean meal in animal feed,” says Professor Bodo Steiner from the Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry, University of Helsinki, Finland.

“Yet we found that a shift to using low-value food industry side stream products — such as catering waste or by-products, for example, from fish processing — in insect production for chicken feed is key to decisively increasing the carbon footprint benefits of using insect protein over soybean meal protein.” 

All this is important and timely, because as a part of the current climate change debate, concerns have been raised over the increasing deforestation associated with the rapid expansion of global soybean cultivation, which is a major protein source for feeding livestock raised to be food for humans.

Journal Reference:

  1. A. Vauterin, B. Steiner, J. Sillman, H. Kahiluoto. The potential of insect protein to reduce food-based carbon footprints in Europe: The case of broiler meat productionJournal of Cleaner Production, 2021; 320: 128799 DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2021.128799

Source:  ScienceDaily

Veteran science journalist laments public rejection of climate change evidence

A 98-year-old US science journalist, who has finally decided to retire, says a generation of Americans are suffering from a “major disability in what they can think about and understand”.

This  was one reason why so many people refused to recognise climate change was real, David Perlman told the website of the Poynter Institute, which trains the media.

For the majority of his career, he has covered scientific progress in the 20th century and beyond, writing thousands of articles about everything from the beginning of the space age to the computer age.

Perlman, a journalist at The San Francisco Chronicle,  described cuts in science coverage by newspapers as “absolutely obscene”.

 “Newspapers, whether online or in print, are a major factor in the ongoing education and awareness of the public, and specifically of a younger generation,” he said.

“And whether it’s online or in print, the idea of failing to cover advances in science … it creates a generation with a major disability in what they can think about and understand.”

Perlman has not only won awards but had them named after him, The Independent says (HERE) in a report on his remarks.

The lack of critical thinking that dismays him was being demonstrated in the US public’s reaction to scientific evidence that the world is getting warmer because of greenhouse gas emissions, largely caused by fossil fuels.

“A perfect example of that [lack of understanding of science] is the controversy over climate change, global warming and all that that implies,” Mr Perlman said.

“The failure of people to understand that this is real science, and it’s just as scientifically valid as an issue today as is the fact that we’re going to have an eclipse of the sun on August 21. That’s not a theory — that’s going to happen.

“And the climate is going to change more, and more and more.

“The resistance to an understanding of that I can understand … which is largely generated by people whose economic interests are threatened by the fact that what’s causing the changing climate is, in fact, the increasing emissions of greenhouse gases.”

A recent poll by YouGov found 57 per cent of Americans thought that a combination of human activity and natural causes were causing global warming.

Nasa and other scientific bodies, however, say greenhouse gas emissions have caused the vast majority of recent warming with the world experiencing three successive, record-breaking hottest years. The natural El Nino weather cycle has had a relatively minor effect.

Mr Perlman said once there had been 50 to 75 pages in newspapers devoted to science across the US but now “there’s The New York Times on Tuesday” with only a few others having anything similar.

He said newspapers have abdicated their responsibility by diminishing the amount of science coverage.

Surging methane emissions threaten Paris Agreement climate goals

A consortium of 81 scientists has warned that a decade-long surge of the potent greenhouse gas methane threatens to make the fight against global warming even harder.

Additional attention is urgently needed to quantify and reduce methane emissions, the scientists wrote in the Environmental Research Letters journal in a summary of the the consortium’s findings.

After rising slowly from 2000 to 2006, the concentration of methane in the air climbed 10 times more quickly the following decade, according to that study, which was published in the peer-reviewed Earth System Science Data.

“Keeping global warming below two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) is already a challenging target,” they said, referring to the goal set in the 196-nation Paris climate pact, which entered into force last month.

“Such a target will become increasingly difficult if reductions in methane emissions are not also addressed strongly and rapidly.”

With only 1 C (1.8 F) of warming above pre-industrial era levels so far, the world has seen an uptick in extreme weather, including droughts, superstorms, heat waves and coastal flooding boosted by rising seas.

On current trends, average global temperatures are on track to rise by more than 3 C by 2100, even if national carbon-cutting pledges annexed to the Paris Agreement are honoured.

Without those pledges, the increase would be much higher.

To date, efforts to keep the planet from overheating have focused mostly on the main greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, a by-product of burning fossil fuels that accounts for at least 70 percent of warming.

But while scientists agree that total emissions of methane are rising sharply, they remain uncertain as to why.

Today, some 60 percent of methane originates from human activity, the rest coming from wetlands and other natural sources.

About a third of human-generated methane is a byproduct of the fossil fuel industry.

Researchers point to a surge in coal-generated power in China, along with leakage from the natural gas fracking boom in the United States.

“Both these regions are thought to play a role” in the sudden hike, said Marielle Saunois, lead author of the editorial as well as the review, and an assistant professor at the University of Versailles Saint Quentin.

But coal-fired plants and leaks from gas production are not sufficient and do not gel with the dramatic increase in the last two years, she told AFP.

A more likely culprit, the study concluded, is livestock production and agriculture (especially rice farming), which together account for nearly two-thirds of manmade methane emissions. Cows expel large quantities of methane and the flooded soils of rice paddies are homes for microbes that produce the gas.

A third possibility is a slow-down in the natural chemical reaction in the atmosphere that breaks down CH4.

Methane is much more short-lived in the atmosphere than CO2. This means that actions taken to reduce emissions will show rapid results, the researchers said.

This post is based on a report (here) in England’s Daily Telegraph.

Study finds spread of crop pests threatens global food security as Earth warms

A new study has revealed that global warming is resulting in the spread of crop pests towards the North and South Poles at a rate of nearly 3 km a year.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change and summarised in a university media statement, was carried out by researchers at the University of Exeter and the University of Oxford.

It shows a strong relationship between increased global temperatures over the past 50 years and expansion in the range of crop pests.

Currently 10-16% of global crop production is lost to pests. Crop pests include fungi, bacteria, viruses, insects, nematodes, viroids and oomycetes.

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Survey shows overwhelming scientific view on human contribution to climate change

A survey of the abstracts of almost 12,000 scientific papers from 1991-2011 shows the great majority of scientists who stated a position on the evidence endorsed the view that humans are to blame. Just 1.9 per cent rejected the view.

The University of Queensland-led study claims to be the largest peer-reviewed study of its kind.

It is published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, based on the work of 24 scientists and others recruited through skepticalscience.com. Ratings were cross-checked and authors were contacted to rate their own papers.

The study looked at English-language studies by authors in more than 90 nations.

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