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• It is generally accepted that the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) need to be sharply reduced. This note considers how agriculture could contribute to this objective. A related note Agriculture and Climate Change (SN/SC/3763) covers the effect of climate change on agriculture. Another note deals with Biofuels (SN/SC/3691). That note covers arguments about how far farmers can help to reduce overall carbon emissions by planting crops that replace petrol or other fuels.

• A report by Stanford University in 2010 concluded that intensive farming contributed to reduction in carbon emissions, because the alternative would be to use much more land at a lower productivity. The researchers found that agricultural advances between 1961 and 2005 spared a portion of land larger than Russia from development and reduced emissions by the equivalent of 590 Gigatonnes of carbon dioxide – roughly a third of the total emitted since the start of the Industrial Revolution (Nature, 17 June 2010)

• Some people argue that a vegan diet is necessary to reduce emissions of methane from ruminants. Others argue that changes to feeding practices can achieve considerable reductions.

• In November 2010 the Government announced increased funds for research into measuring the effect of specific agricultural practices on GHG emissions.

• On 29 March 2011, the UK farming industry launched a Greenhouse Gas Action Plan.

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