Through regenerative agriculture, large food corporations take action to cut a considerable portion of their carbon emissions.
Farmer Will Cannon have long appreciated the advantages of regenerative farming. Cannon plants cover crops over the soil after the harvest of the corn and soybeans to sequester carbon during the winter. In Prairie City, Iowa, he currently owns 1,000 acres of farmland. And throughout all of his operations, he applies regenerative agriculture techniques. To keep the carbon isolated in the ground, Cannon says the process is delicate and that he must be careful not to overplow the soil.
“I’ve kind of had a passion for conservation all my life. I’ve kind of had a passion for conservation all my life,” he said.
However, regenerative farming is very expensive. However, a lot of businesses support the environmentally friendly farming method. And the food industry started to take notice of it over time. For example, large food companies like PepsiCo and Unilever purchase Cannon’s products. Popular products from both companies include Lays and Gatorade. As a result, partnerships between eco-conscious farmers and multinational corporations will increase, say experts.
A 12-company group, which includes Mars, McDonald’s, and PepsiCo, decided to look into regenerative farming. The businesses unveiled the strategy days before the 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27).
“I think [regenerative agriculture] has a tremendous but under-tapped opportunity to have a major impact on climate change,” said PepsiCo chief sustainability officer Jim Andrew.
The food system and regenerative farming
Global greenhouse gas emissions endanger the planet in numerous ways. The food system causes a third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Regrettably, the food system is largely under the control of the private sector. Therefore, corporations must accept climate commitments to keep the system from disintegrating. Calls to corporations to uphold their climate commitments were echoed by environmental organizations.
Thankfully, many businesses took the calls. As an illustration, Mars and PepsiCo declared their intention to achieve net zero gas emissions. The task is difficult, though, because the sector is dependent on emissions. For instance, significant amounts of greenhouse gases are released during the production and packaging of necessary products.
“They’re invested in the system which generates greenhouse gas emissions, and essentially they are trapped by the need to continue to be profitable and grow their profits,” said Ricardo Salvador from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
A challenging task
According to the Sustainable Markets Initiative, only 15% of farmland worldwide employs regenerative techniques. To reduce global temperatures, businesses and farms must scale up the methodologies by 40% in 2030. But achieving the objective is still tricky.
“The commodity system tells [farmers]: Yield at all costs. And yield at all costs means that Mother Nature then pays. Climate change is her telling us: No more,” said Sarah Carlson from the Practical Farmers of Iowa.
“We need to invest in those farmers to de-risk that transition. But, I think that companies have a huge role to play in making a big shift on the landscape,” she added.
Photo Credit: Phil Magakoe
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