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Festival of Politics 2022
11 to 13 August
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Thursday, October 21, 2021

Will vegans really save the planet?

Time: 1pm to 2pm

The good, bad and best ways on consuming food that is best for us and the planet.


Event information

The food system is reportedly globally responsible for a third of all greenhouse gases – so avoiding a lot of meat and dairy is widely recognised as helping reduce environmental impact.

On the other hand, a vegan diet and meat-substitutes can involve intensive water production, high air-miles from flying certain products across the globe, as well as impacting the source nation’s supply chain. And that’s without even discussing how we move the giant tankers of food-service and restaurant industries around?

Join the panel to discuss the good, bad and best ways of consuming food that is best for us and the planet.

This event is brought to you in partnership with James Hutton Institute. It is chaired by Emma Harper MSP, Health, Social Care and Sport Committee.


Professor Derek Stewart

Professor Stewart is the Director of the Advanced Plant Growth Centre, a new £27M initiative at the James Hutton Institute (JHI), focussing on precision technologies for plant/crop production, and (now honorary) Prof of Plant and Food Chemistry at Heriot Watt University. From a background in the UK pharmaceutical industry as a drug designer, he has pursued a >30 year career in crop production, raw material composition and its relation to product quality, functionality, bioactivity and utility. Prof Stewart has significant experience of science discovery, translation and commercialisation projects at the international level and currently leads the JHI science in the area of transformative crop production systems for food and non-food applications. Prof Stewart is lead on projects focussing on crop quality and nutritive value and functionality from a range of sources including UKRI, EU, investment funds and direct industry funding. He has an H-index of 60, has published >200 refereed papers and over his career has been involved in projects with a cumulative value of £275M.

Dr Malte Roedl

Malte is researcher and lecturer in Environmental Communication in the Department of Urban and Rural Development at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. His work is concerned with human-technology-nature relationships, focusing among others on how Circular Economy in the food sector is established. Malte conducted his PhD reserach at the Sustainable Consumption Institute, The University of Manchester, on plant-based meat alternatives and their recent and present embedding into an animal-meat-centred food culture.

Debs Roberts

Debs is the Policy Manager for the Scottish Organic Producers Association, Scotland's largest co-operating group of organic farms with more than 300 members. Debs works with industry partners and Scottish Government to advise on organic food and farming policies, as well as offering networking support and market intelligence to SOPA members. Debs gained a Post Graduate degree in Organic Farming in 2004 after studying part time by distance at SAC Craibstone. Also a Rural Leader, Debs is passionate about local food and financial sustainability complementing environmental sustainability. In 2019 Debs was awarded an Associate Fellowship of the Royal Agricultural Societies for her contribution to rural life and the organic farming sector. Born and raised in the West Australian wheat belt, Debs farms in partnership with her husband Jamie in Perthshire. The 500-acre farm has been organic for 23 years, growing organic cereals in rotation with 80 suckler cows and followers. Recently Debs has added a micro laying hen enterprise to the farm, servicing local customers with organic eggs.

Professor Mads Fischer-Moller

Mads is Professor in food policy at Scotland's Rural College and leader of the upcoming Future Food Systems Challenge Centre, with a particular interest in sustainable diets and the food systems innovations needed in order reach more healthy and sustainable food consumption, in Scotland and globally. Before arriving in Scotland a year ago Mads worked as a civil servant for the Nordic intergovernmental cooperation on all matters food policy.

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