There is no agreement that diet matters for environmental sustainability in the agriculture sector. Much current agriculture is unsustainable and worsening; the environmental impact of agriculture degrades natural capital (e.g. loss of topsoil, waste and pollution of water, nutrient loss, extinction of species). Cattle raising is one of the most damaging components of agriculture. Livestock now eat about half of global grain production. There is limited scope for improving food supply and what scope there is will further damage the environment. All means to improve nutrition, especially for the poor, will be needed as population increases. One such means is to improve diets of the rich by eating lower down the food chain. While most people in the world thrive on mainly grain-based diets, carnivory is high in OECD and is increasing in LDCs. In order to reduce food wastage and to improve health and food availability, a food conversion efficiency tax is proposed. The least efficient converters (pork, beef) would be highly taxed; more efficient converters (poultry, eggs, dairy) would be moderately taxed. Most efficient converters (ocean fish) would be taxed lowest. Grain for human food would not be taxed, while coarse grains might be modestly subsidized. Non-food agriculture also would be taxed: highest on tobacco and on starches destined for alcoholic beverages produced from land suitable for food production.
Ecological Economics – Elsevier
Published: Dec 5, 1997
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