New EU report says red meat causes cancer.

Louise Hickey

EU policy for 2022 encourages a shift to a more plant-based diet due to red meat causing cancer.

Research from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that when haem (a natural chemical found in meat) is processed N-nitroso chemicals are formed. These have been found to damage cells that line the bowel, causing cancer.

A €170m food promotion policy in conjunction with Europe’s ‘Beat Cancer’ initiative aims to boost sustainable production and cut emissions. The policy will be driven the most in the global south, as this is where the EU expects to see the most growth due to continued GDP growth and population growth.

This shift will also help with reducing climate change. The EU said that this funding is a key dimension of its “green transition”. The EU policy writes that “Food systems remain one of the key drivers of climate change and environmental degradation”.

It is important to note that the WHO has not found any evidence of cancer caused by unprocessed red meat. The Irish Cattle and Sheep farmers’ Association (ISCA) is against the policy and has said that the link being made between red meat and cancer is a “witful misrepresentation of the actual research”.

The ICSA president, Dermot Kelleher provided a statement on the ISCA website stating “The reality is that the EU is taking a very ideological position on red meat that is not supported by incontrovertible evidence. A balanced diet with a focus on reducing or eliminating ultra-processed foods is still likely to be a better strategy. It is worrisome that the EU appears to be supporting highly processed plant burgers over real meat.”.

Speaking to one farmer, Eugene Cassidy from Co. Meath who is also a Fine Gael councillor believes farmers are “being picked on” in terms of climate change. “I don’t think it’s a level playing field at the moment. I think if you look out to a field, you’d see all the hedgerows we have, all the green grass we have, all the trees. That’s all down to farmers, and none of that is taken into consideration.”.

The EU is continuing with policy plans, despite debate from farmers. They hope to see a transition to a healthier, greener EU, along with improving the treatment of farm animals.