12 October 2021. by AgForce General President Georgie Somerset

Science is a powerful weapon.

Governments, corporations, even environmental groups have all twisted it to their advantage, taking from it only the parts that satisfy their position, while sometimes misrepresenting the facts completely.

In the 1950s, American nutritionist Ancel Keys undertook a study to investigate the cause of the sharp rise in heart disease after World War II.

The answer, we know now, was smoking rates, but Ancel Keys surmised diet was the cause and focused his attention on saturated fat and cholesterol – the rest, as they say, is history.

Eating fat makes you fat made sense to many (and still does) and gave rise to the abundance of highly processed food many of us now include in unhealthy quantities in our diets.

Ancel Keys’s incorrect position on fat – established via the use of cherry-picked science in his ‘Seven Countries Study’, and unable to be confirmed despite repeated follow-up studies – stuck.

Just like the ‘scientific’ arguments brought to bear on agriculture often seem to – especially when it comes to climate and the environment.

Despite doing ALL the heavy lifting to reduce our nation’s carbon emissions, there are still plenty of critics willing to point the finger and suggest industry – particularly the livestock sector – is the root cause of all our climate problems, ignoring the massive strides made to reduce methane production.

This outdated thinking – based on outdated science – also ignores the huge investment made by farming operations, many of them small family run businesses, to not only sequester carbon, but to improve the land in its entirety.

Methane from cattle emissions is part of the natural cycle and breaks down quickly, while carbon dioxide is taken up in crops, pastures, and native vegetation on farms throughout the nation.

A recent report from the Gratton Institute even acknowledges that agriculture uses more carbon dioxide than it emits, while current environmental science demonstrates that Agriculture – at less than 15 per cent of total emissions in Australia (down from 16.5 per cent prior to Kyoto) – is far less impactful than some critics would suggest.

Much less than the dominant energy sector, with more than 53 per cent total emissions, or transport, at more than 17 per cent – both industries increasing their emissions since Kyoto was ratified in 1997.

It’s why as an industry we believe it’s well past time we were given our due recognition – to change the rhetoric, to ensure we avoid a repeat of what took place when Ancel Keys and his cherry-picked science was allowed to set the path for the obesity epidemic that has followed.

If agriculture alone is forced to continue to carry the burden of reducing Australia’s share of emissions, it will also drive some producers from the industry – at a time when COVID has put the issue of food security in the brightest of spotlights.

Instead, as the figures above show, it is time for other industries to pick up the baton of carbon emissions reduction so that they can take their place alongside agriculture as true champions of action on climate.

Join AgForce in spreading the word about the fantastic work being done by agriculture on climate as we count down to COP26 in Glasgow. Use #standwithregqld.