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Alternative proteins are not enough to create sustainable food systems. IPES Food report

Proteins alternatives to those of animal origin can contribute to food security but they are not enough to guarantee the sustainability of food systems.

IPES Food, in the report 'The Politics on Protein', stresses the need for a broader vision and strategy. (1) A ray of sunshine does not make spring.

1) Introduction. Alternative proteins, part of the whole

# SDG2 - Zero Hunger, the second among the Sustainable Development Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) in the UN Agenda 2030 - can only be achieved through a radical reform of current food systems and social policies. The mere production of protein alternatives to meat (and other foods of animal origin) is not enough.

The Committee of IPES Food experts highlight the risk of dismissing a far-reaching problem - the poverty crisis e food security - in the sole lack of a nutrient, proteins in fact. It is in fact necessary to consider a series of aspects that include numerous variables in the food and social systems of the different areas of the planet.

2) Zootechnics

2.1) Intensive farming e Lab Meat, curious coincidences (of interests)

Industrial farming - which is attributed the responsibility for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions - represents about 50% of global agricultural GDP. And it is a sector concentrated in the hands of a few Corporation.

The same Corporation, in recent years, they have also invested in innovation related to alternative proteins, whose value has grown from US $ 6 million in 2016 to US $ 366 million in 2020. (2)

2.2) Peasant farms

The farms of small-scale, family and peasant animals, are rooted in traditions and have nothing to do with industrial ones.

Pets they provide food, wool and skin, physical labor (transportation), natural fertilizers. In addition to being used as a financial guarantee and allowing the enhancement of marginal land.

Peasant animal husbandry it is in fact a means of livelihood, income and food security. Especially in arid regions with few alternatives. (3)

3) Sustainable development

3.1) 1% vs. 99%

The political debate on where to lead the food systems of the planet today is based on aspects that coincide with the interests ofelite financial (1%) but neglect the needs of the populations (99%).

The challenge area of  food security it does not really concern the production of sustainable proteins alone, but the equitable distribution of resources to produce food and the fight against poverty.

To change food systems must therefore focus efforts on shared and shared objectives of sustainability, without neglecting peasant traditions and agroecology. (4)

3.2) Dynamics

Some proposals to produce alternative proteins they rely on technological solutions costing millions, sometimes even on ingredients with a high environmental impact. A dynamic that strengthens existing power relations and hinders the food sovereignty of peoples, even in low- and medium-income countries, by entrusting food security global to a small group of Corporation.

'The claim that meat, fish and milk must be replaced with alternative proteins leads to an industrialization of the food system that could endanger the livelihoods of millions of people, ecosystems as in the case of aquaculture which, in order to satisfy production, require inputs that can have negative effects on the environment '.

3.2) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

# SDG1 - End Poverty, the first among the Sustainable Development Goals, is the condition for achieving the objectives of food security (SDG2) and health and well-being of individuals (# SDG3, Ensure Health and Well-being). Greenhouse gas emissions associated with production processes are often presented as the only parameter of sustainability of food systems. In a short-sighted and not disinterested vision that overlooks some crucial elements. Not only the rights of peasants and rural communities in vain proclaimed from the UN (2018) but also, among other things:

- deforestation and loss of biodiversity associated with monocultures of commodities agricultural, (5)

- pollution of soils, (6) water (7) and air with pesticides and other agrotoxicants.

4) Provisional conclusions

Sustainability of food systems must be developed in the three economic, social and environmental dimensions. With the primary objective of guaranteeing access to effective production methods and thus to healthy and sustainable food, respecting the cultures and natural resources of the places.

Funding public research and development must be directed towards the cd open innovation. That is to say that projects on alternative proteins or other types of innovation - even if they involve private operators - must be able to be replicated without patent restrictions, for the common good.

Dario Dongo and Isis Consuelo Sanlucar Chirinos


(1) Phill Howard, The politics of protein. iPES Food. 01.04.222. http://www.ipes-food.org/pages/politicsofprotein

(2) Dario Dongo. 'Carne vegan', meat sounding. Great show in the European Parliament. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 23.10.20, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/carne-vegana-meat-sounding-grande-spettacolo-al-parlamento-europeo

(3) Dario Dongo. Milk of camelids, Mediterranean perspective. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 8.9.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/latte-di-camelidi-prospettiva-mediterranea

(4) Dario Dongo, Giulia Orsi. The state of nature in the EU. Organic revolution. Égalité. 4.1.21, https://www.egalite.org/lo-stato-della-natura-in-ue-rivoluzione-bio/

(5) Dario Dongo. Biodiversity and climate emergency. Égalité. 13.2.20, https://www.egalite.org/biodiversita-ed-emergenza-climatica-il-filo-comune/

(6) Dario Dongo. Soil protection, EU 2030 strategy. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 6.12.21, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/en/protezione-del-suolo-strategia-2030-labc

(7) Dario Dongo. ISPRA, 2020 report on pesticides in water. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.12.20, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/de/ispra-rapporto-2020-sui-pesticidi-nelle-acque

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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Graduated in food engineering at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, she is attending the master's degree in 'Food Safety Lawyer and Consultant' at Alma Mater, University of Bologna.


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