The Guardian’s anti-GMO columnist George Monbiot reports that grass-fed organic beef and lamb are “some of the most harmful foods on the planet”.

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George Monbiot. Photo credit: Tank Magazine

What are the most harmful agricultural products in the world? The answer may surprise you: organically farmed beef and lamb. I realize this is a shocking claim. Of all the statements in my new book, Regenesis, it caused the greatest anger. But I’m not trying to tease people. I try to present the facts. let me explain.

Arable crops, some of which are fed to livestock, occupy 12% of the planet’s land surface. but far more land (about 26%) is used for grazing, i.e. for pasture meat and milk. However, in this vast area there are livestock that are fed entirely from pasture produce only 1% of the world’s protein.

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Many ranchers now claim to practice “regenerative grazing”. The minimum definition of ecological regeneration is to allow trees to return to formerly forested land. In the highlands of Britain, to judge the experience of deer managers, which means a maximum of about one sheep per 20 hectares (50 acres). They might as well not be held at all.

In the lowlands, the Knepp Rewilding Project in Sussex shows how far production must fall to allow the return of trees and other wildlife: it produces only 54 kg of meat per hectare. If, as many chefs and foodies and some environmentalists are suggesting, meat came only from regenerative farms, it would be so scarce only millionaires would eat it.

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