Open letter from concerned Australian scientists
Story Added : 14th March 2011
ENSURING ENVIRONMENTALLY SUSTAINABLE AND ETHICAL FOOD PRODUCTION FOR THE WORLD’S GROWING POPULATION
Recent announcements by Coles supermarkets potentially threaten the sustainable and ethical production of food by Australian farmers.
These policies, detailed in media releases including one entitled ‘Australian Supermarket First: No Added Hormone Beef!’ relate to the use of growth promotants (HGPs) in cattle. Another release announces a policy to phase out pork produced using gestation crates. Coles has also significantly reduced its home-brand milk prices.
These announcements by Coles appear to appeal to the emotions of everyday consumers, but do not provide the scientific context of modern farming. Coles’ policies may restrict the way Australian farmers can produce food for sale in Coles’ stores, and the buying power of Coles can mean that a decision to not accept food produced by a particular method may stop that mode of production.
The Coles’ announcements might convey the impression to consumers that production using these methods results in unsatisfactory quality beef and unethically produced pork. We reject any such implicit understanding. We believe that these announcements could force farmers to use a particular mode of production and may ultimately be counter-productive.
We are a group of Australian scientists who believe that these and other changes proposed by activists and those seeking to take market positions, such as Coles, will damage the security and efficiency of Australian food production. These decisions may harm the environment and animals, and limit consumers’ access to safe affordable food. Further, it should be noted that the statements made by Coles have been publicly rebutted by a senior scientist from CSIRO1 and MLA2 whose studies were cited by Coles in support of the HGP ban. There are many factors that affect tenderness of beef and HGP use is only one of these.
As scientists working in the fields of livestock health, welfare and production we have committed our lives to providing the means to improve the wellbeing of animals and those that care for them.
Australia has a proud history of agricultural production supported by strong regulatory, veterinary and food safety authorities who ensure the safety of our food, the protection of our environment and the welfare of the animals on our farms. Australia exports food around the world and meets the most rigorous global standards for food quality. Australian produced food has never been safer for consumers.
We support methods of production that are ethical, environmentally sustainable, safe for workers, safe for consumers and favour animal well-being. On balance, we consider the methods of production being targeted by Coles meet these criteria. These practices have been reviewed and accepted by the relevant regulatory bodies in Australia charged with considering the welfare and safety of humans and animals. These are also environmentally-friendly approaches to production.
As a consequence of Coles’ position, the choices available to Australian consumers to buy safe affordable food that is produced using conventional food production systems may be restricted.
The choice to purchase food types like organic and specialist ranges should be available to consumers, but this should not be at the expense of the right of the vast majority of Australians to choose safe and affordable conventionally produced food. We believe that the choices of all can be accommodated, but that we must not allow the choice of many to be placed at risk to meet the preferences of some.
In the next 50 years, the world will need to double food production to feed the demands of a rapidly growing human population. This food must be produced using the same amount of land but with less water, fertilizer and waste production. It must be achieved with enhanced animal wellbeing. Removing the choice of producers to use efficient production systems will result in greater greenhouse gas emission and use of increasingly limited land and water resources.
Reducing our ability to sustainably feed the world to prioritise the food choices of those fortunate enough to be able to afford such choice, is a questionable moral position. While we strongly support the right of consumers to understand how their food is produced, in order for our farmers to continue to ensure an abundant supply of food, they need to be free to use production tools that are profitable, ethical, and sustainable. The food produced must be safe and nutritious.
Farmers and their scientific advisors are the experts in agricultural production. They, and our consumers and regulators – not supermarket chains – should be making the decisions on the best way to produce high quality food under the widely varied conditions that make up our agricultural systems.
Applying these restrictions to Australian farmers will increase costs making them less able to compete with overseas farmers, many of whom are subsidised by their governments. Losing Australian farmers and food production infrastructure threatens the security and sovereignty of Australian food production.
It is our view that these decisions of Coles are bad for the environment, bad for people and bad for animals.
• Peter Alexander BVSc, MACVSc Past President Australian Cattle Veterinarians
• Emeritus Professor of Animal Science E. Frank Annison AM, BSc, PhD (Lond), DSc, FRIC University of Sydney
• Robert Bonanno BVSc Hons President Australian Cattle Veterinarians
• Emeritus Professor Alan Bell BRurSc (Hons), PhD (Glasgow)
• Dr Elizabeth Bramley BSc (Hons), BVMS, PhD (Syd) School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences Murdoch University
• Professor Wayne L. Bryden BRurSc (NE), Dip Ed (NE), MRurSc (NE), PhD (Syd), FAIAST Professor of Animal Science University of Queensland
• Dr Pietro Celi DMV (Bari, Italy) PhD (WA)
• Professor Mingan Choct BSc, MSc (UNSW), PhD (Syd) University of New England
• Michelle Cotton BVSc, BVSCVet, MVPHMt, MACVSc
• Professor Nick Costa BAgSc (Hons), PhD (Adelaide) Chair in Sustainable Agriculture School of Environmental Science Murdoch University
• Adjunct Professor Ross Cutler BVSc (Melb), PhD (Minnesota)
• Dr Haydn Lloyd Davies PhD, B.Sc. (Hons), FAIAST, FASAP. Foundation Professor of Pastoral Science University of NSW (retired)
• Professor Frank R. Dunshea PhD, FNSA, RAnNutr. Head of Department of Agriculture and Food Systems University of Melbourne
• Professor David Emery BSc(Vet), DVSc (Syd) Faculty of Veterinary Science University of Sydney
• Professor Keith Entwistle AM, BVSc, PhD, FASAP, QDAH
• Professor Lee A Fitzpatrick BVSc, PhD, MACVSc, GCertEd,
• Emeritus Professor David Fraser BVSc (Hons), PhD (Cambridge) Faculty of Veterinary Science University of Sydney
• Associate Professor Sergio (Yani) Garcia Agr. Eng (B.Ag.Sc), MSc (Argentina), PhD (Massey)
• Dr Peter Holdsworth AM, BSc (Hons), PhD (Qld), FAICD Chief Executive Officer, Animal Health Alliance (Australia) Ltd Past President, Australia Society for Parasitology
• Associate Professor John House BSc, BVMS, PhD (California), Dip ACVIM Director Livestock Veterinary Teaching and Research Unit University of Sydney
• Dr Roy C. Kellaway BSc(Hort) (London), PhD (NE) DTA, FAIAST
• Associate Professor Ken Jacobs BVSc, MVSc (Saskatoon)
• Dr Leigh Ladd BVBiol (Qld), BVSc (Qld), PhD (Syd), MACVSc, MAIBiol, MIBiol, CBiol
• Adjunct Professor Ian Lean BVSc PhD (California), MACVSc Past President Australian Cattle Veterinarians, Gilruth Medallist
• Graham Lean BVSc, MAAAC
• Associate Professor Brian Leury BAgrSc. (Hons), PhD (La Trobe) Reader in Animal Science The University of Melbourne
• Professor Michael R McGowan BVSc, MVSc, PhD (Syd), DipECAR
• Professor KL ‘Jock’ Macmillan PhD, DSc, FRSNZ
• Professor Robert Mulley BA, MScAg, PhD (Syd)
• Associate Professor Dr Scott Norman BVSc (UQ), PhD (UQ), Diplomate ACT
• David Petersen BSc, BVMS Past President Australian Cattle Veterinarians
• Dr Robert van Barneveld BAgrSc. (Hons), PhD, RAnNutr, FAICD
• Bruce Watt BVSc, MS, MACVSc
• Hadley Willsallen BVSc, MACVSc
• Professor Peter Wynn BRurSc (UNE), DipEd, MRurSc, PhD (Syd)
1. Professor Alan Bell on ‘A Current Affair’ Channel 9.
2. Letter to the editor of the Weekly Times on 12 January, 2011 from Michelle Gorman, General Manager Industry Systems in Meat and Livestock Australia.
Issued for Adjunct Professor Ian Lean
by Cox Inall Communications
Contact: David Dawson 0428 782 266
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the above letter belong to the original authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of Kondinin Group.