Life cycle analysis shows beef produced in regenerative agricultural system is far more climate-friendly than the GMO Impossible Burger
EXCERPT: Quantis... conducted an LCA [life cycle analysis] at White Oaks Pasture and found that beef produced in their regenerative agricultural system is carbon negative. Their system produces over 100% less CO2 than both conventional beef or the Impossible Burger: For every 1kg of beef produced at the farm, their overall system, including the soil and their vegetation, removes 3.5 kg of CO2 from the atmosphere.
Impossible Burger causes some beef in the "green" market
Beyond Pesticides, 8 Aug 2019
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The Food and Drug Association (FDA) recently approved the Impossible Burger, sparking a debate among environmentalists and lovers of plant-based meat products. The burger, manufactured by the Impossible Foods Group, is comprised of genetically engineered soy and heme (iron-containing molecule that is a component of hemoglobin and common to plants and animals). It contains over 11.3 times the amount of glyphosate residue as its counterpart, the non-GMO Beyond Burger. Spurring more controversy, the Impossible Foods Group recently attacked regenerative agricultural practices that advocates say are part of the solution to the current food system and climate crises.
Impossible Foods Group uses genetically engineered soy that is resistant to herbicides such as glyphosate. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, has recently taken the pesticide spotlight as over 18,000 plaintiffs are suing the agricultural giant Bayer over diagnoses of cancer and other diseases allegedly caused by use of their products. Ingestion or exposure to glyphosate can increase risk of cancer, disrupt estrogen, harm gut bacteria, and jeopardize overall health. Pesticide residues end up in food, and runoff or drift from agricultural fields contaminates soil, air, and water. The spraying of these chemicals can also endanger nearby operations that opt for pesticide free practices, such as organic agriculture and important soybean research.
Impossible Foods Group claims that genetically engineered soy is integral to their patty’s beefiness. However, it appears real beef produced in a regenerative agriculture system may be the true winner for beefiness and for the environment. Impossible Foods group recently attacked this method in an article calling it the “clean coal” of beef production. Contrary to this claim, regenerative agriculture is environmentally conscious, using land management that voids tillage and bare soil, integrates livestock, and fosters on-farm diversity. These practices rebuild soil organic matter and biodiversity, enabling soil to sequester more carbon than conventional soil laden with pesticides.
To prove their product’s superiority, Impossible Food Group hired a third party group of scientists at Quantis to conduct a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) analyzing the environmental impact of their product vs conventional beef from conception to consumption. The results show that the Impossible Burger produces 89% fewer GHG emissions than conventional beef. However, Quantis also conducted an LCA at White Oaks Pasture and found that beef produced in their regenerative agricultural system is carbon negative. Their system produces over 100% less CO2 than both conventional beef or the Impossible Burger: For every 1kg of beef produced at the farm, their overall system, including the soil and their vegetation, removes 3.5 kg of CO2 from the atmosphere. It bears mention that regenerative agriculture does not necessarily mean organic – there is overlap and controversy within this field, as well.
Although plant-based meat alternatives serve an important role in reducing carbon emissions related to meat production, Beyond Pesticides encourages members and the public to choose wisely. Not all plant-based meat substitutes are made equally, and given that the Impossible Burger contains glyphosate residues, uses genetically engineered soy sprayed with pesticides, and is more carbon-intensive than regenerative agriculture, it may not be the best choice. Additionally, Impossible Foods Group continues to strongly advocate for use of genetically engineered crops, falsely insisting on both safety and necessity.
Beyond Pesticides ultimately supports a transition away from toxic pesticides toward organic practices that promote pest resilience and eliminate the need for toxic chemicals. When the Impossible Burger hits the shelves in grocery stores later this year, Beyond Pesticides urges consumers to continue to avoid products that greenwash and promote pesticide-intensive agriculture. To learn more about organic foods and ways to support organic practices and the movement away from pesticides, visit our Eating with a Conscience webpage.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.
Sources: Civil Eats, Eater, Moms Across America