Is consumer behaviour the key to a sustainable food future? Is Ireland taking its environmental responsibilities and commitments seriously?
These, along with Brexit and CAP, were topics that were debated last week during the third Great Agri-Food Debate in Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT).The event, organised by Dawn Meats and McDonald’s Ireland, saw students from five third-level colleges, Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), University College Dublin (UCD), University College Cork (UCC), Cork Institute of Technology and Dundalk Institute of Technology (DKIT), debate key topics for the Irish agriculture industry.
The event culminated in a heated and well-informed debate between UCD and CIT with UCD emerging as the winners.
UCD, supporting the motion that Ireland takes its environmental responsibilities seriously, argued that Ireland’s reputation all around the world as a green, environmentally conscious producer is evidence that the country has embraced the environmental challenge. They argued that targets alone are not a measure of whether Ireland takes its environmental responsibility seriously. The team also flagged the many ways in which Ireland has been an innovator, from Croke Park’s designation as the first carbon neutral stadium in the world, to the introduction of the BER scheme and the way that Ireland is leading the world in passive design.
CIT argued that Ireland has failed to “walk the walk” on its environmental responsibilities time and time again, and that the country continues to choose the economy over the environment. They put it to the audience that going green costs money, money that Ireland doesn’t have.They also referred to the recent coverage of plastic waste in the form of disposable coffee cups, and questioned why these cannot be banned sooner than 2030.
Commenting at the event, Niall Browne, CEO Dawn Meats said; “Through the debates today, we have touched on many of the most pertinent issues facing farmers and food producers in Ireland. The sustainability challenge is one that is particularly close to our hearts in Dawn Meats. We have ambitious 2025 targets to reduce water and energy intensity by 40% and CO2 emission intensity by 50% and we aspire to become Europe’s most sustainable meat company in the process. The students have provided great food for thought today on fulfilling that commitment.”
Raising awareness about sustainability issues with the general public and also with future leaders in an industry sector is an important consideration for businesses like Dawn Meats which hold the Business Working Responsibly Mark. The Great Agri-Food debate is going from strength to strength each year. The students themselves acknowledged the benefits of building their debating skills for their future careers. However, building their knowledge of sustainability as it applies in the agri-food area will also stand to them and to the Irish food industry in years to come.
Pictured above: Tara McCarthy, CEO of Bord Bia , Peter Garbutt of McDonald’s UK & Ireland, Pamela Byrne CEO of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Niall Browne, CEO of Dawn Meats
Pictured above: Semi-final debate chaired by Professor Patrick Wall, UCD