Are alternative proteins truly the best path to a sustainable food supply?

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Alternative protein has been one of the biggest trends to hit the food and beverage sector in the past few years, with many strongly believing that it represents the end-solution to creating a sustainable food supply to feed an estimated 10 billion global population by 2050.

But despite its rapid growth and the keen interest both big brands and emerging start-ups have taken in this sector, experts are questioning the veracity and practicality of focusing too much on this to the detriment of developing other potential solutions.

“There is a clear overemphasis on protein [when] today the evidence clearly shows there is no global ‘protein gap,”​ food systems expert and author of International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food) report Politics of Protein Professor Phil Howard said.

“Protein is only one of many nutrients missing in malnutritious or lacking diets [and in these cases] poverty and access to nutrition are the main issues but debates consistently remain protein-centric, [with this] ‘protein obsession’ shaping political agendas, scientific research, media coverage, farming assessments and more.

“But these solutions are not [a] silver bullet to fix our damaging industrial food system, just like electric cars won’t fix climate change – we need to change the system [to truly achieve results] – not the product.”

Howard also criticised this overemphasis as an increased risk to the livelihoods of many poorer population segments who need the income and tend to be the ones affected by malnutrition and poverty.

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