The harmful environmental effects of livestock production are becoming increasingly serious at all levelslocal, regional, national and globaland urgently need to be addressed, according to researchers from Stanford University, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other organizations. The researchers, representing five countries, will present their findings on Feb. 19 at the annual meeting of the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Francisco during a symposium entitled, "Livestock in a Changing Landscape: Drivers, Consequences and Responses."
Large-scale livestock operations provide most of the meat and meat products consumed around the worldconsumption that is growing at a record pace and is projected to double by 2050, said symposium organizer Harold A. Mooney, professor of biological sciences at Stanford. "We are seeing tremendous environmental problems with these operations, from land degradation and air and water pollution to loss of biodiversity," he said, noting that the developing world is especially vulnerable to the effects of these operations.
Intensive and extensive systems
Symposium co-organizer Henning Steinfeld of the FAO Livestock Environment and Development initiative emphasized that intensive and extensive forms of production are beset with a range of different problems. In "intensive systems," animals are contained and feed is brought to them. "Extensive systems" generally refer to grazing animals that live off the land.
"Extensive livestock production plays a critical role in land degradation, climate change, water and biodiversity loss," Steinfeld said. For example, grazing occupies 26 percent of the Earth's terrestrial surface, and feed-crop production requires about a third of all arable land, he said. Expansion of livestock grazing land is also a leading cause of deforestation, especially in Latin America, he added. In the Amazon basin al
Contact: Mark Shwartz