By Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, and Defence
One of the greatest challenges facing mankind today is how to feed the growing world population, while protecting the planet. There have been positive signs of international progress on these issues, with the world community reaching agreement on both the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement on climate action last year. I welcome the fact that the Paris Agreement acknowledges the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger, as well as the particular vulnerabilities of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change.
In Ireland, our ambition is to be the global leader in sustainable food production. We already have a climate-efficient agriculture, which is measured and verifiable, through the world’s first national sustainability programme, Origin Green. To date, 85% of Ireland’s exports come from farm and food producers who have committed, through Origin Green, to further improve and continuously measure, their sustainability performance. We want to do much more, to ensure that we are, and remain, the most sustainable producer of milk, beef and other food products in the world.
The agri-food sector is our largest indigenous industry, providing sources of income and employment throughout rural Ireland. Last year, stakeholders from the sector came together to agree on a new strategy for the sustainable growth of the sector over the next decade: Food Wise 2025.
Sustainability is at the core of Food Wise, which states that: “environmental protection and economic competitiveness should be considered as equal and complementary: one cannot be achieved at the expense of the other”. Food Wise therefore sets out a range of actions aimed at managing significant projected growth in the sector in a sustainable way, while protecting and improving the environment.
Ireland is using the EU Rural Development Programme and other policy measures across agriculture to encourage changes in farm practices and a scientific basis to underpin sustainability credentials. But I am ambitious for us to do more. I firmly believe that Ireland’s example can benefit other countries on their own journey to sustainable food production.
An initiative by Bord Bia, the Irish Food Board www.origingreen.ie