Radhika Ramesh• April 05 2024

GFI India at UNEA-6: Sustainable Protein Diversification and Multilateral Environmental Action

GFI India worked on building awareness of the emerging role of alternative proteins as a climate solution at the 6th United Nations Environment Assembly.

What is the United Nations Environment Assembly?

The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) is the highest-level decision-making body where global environmental issues take center stage. During the sixth session of the UNEA from February 26 to March 1, member states, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders gathered to discuss and negotiate resolutions on various environmental issues, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, and sustainable consumption and production. 

Recipe for change

On February 22, I got the incredible opportunity to co-conduct a dynamic hybrid workshop on ‘Sustainable Protein Diversification and Multilateral Environmental Action’ with support from Stephanie Maw from ProVeg International

The workshop included a keynote presentation by three women experts about their experience in and expectations from alternative protein from distinct perspectives of science, environment, and public policy: Dr. Niloo Srivastava, Principal Scientist at the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ms. Cleo Verkuijl, Scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute, Researcher at Harvard Law School and author of UNEP’s Frontier Series Report –  ‘What’s Cooking’, and Ms. Sanne Kruid, Senior Policy Officer International Biodiversity Policy, Ministry of Nature, Agriculture and Food Quality Government of Netherlands. 


The workshop drew more than 30 participants, many of whom were learning about conventional animal-derived foods’ role in environmental degradation. In the breakout rooms, participants discussed opportunities and innovative solutions to unlock the potential of alternative proteins and protein diversification. 


The groups discussed ideas like integrating millets and other indigenous superfoods for protein diversification, utilizing side streams to obtain functional ingredients for alternative proteins, and increasing collaboration opportunities with international development institutions. Although protein diversification and adopting alternative proteins were understood to be necessary, the group addressed some key challenges and barriers, such as getting producers to grow diversified crops and moving away from energy-inefficient crops such as rice and wheat. However, shifts in cropping patterns can be a complex challenge for global majority countries such as India.


Feeding the future

While the workshop provided an opportunity to promote multilateral action informally, GFI India was also invited to represent in the prestigious side event on day one of UNEA 6.


The side event, organized by the UNEP, aimed to discuss the groundbreaking report — What’s Cooking, An Assessment Of The Potential Impacts Of Selected Novel Alternatives To Conventional Animal Products, found here


The discussion was joined by internationally esteemed scientists and policy experts, including Cleo Verkuijl, Niloo Srivastava, Emily Ouma, Ana Maria Loboguerrero, Lasse B., Sir Robert Watson, and myself from GFI India. 

I took this opportunity to spotlight alternative protein science’s progress and technological trajectory, which has been phenomenal in the last ten years. Compared to technologies such as clean energy development and electric vehicles, the accelerated rate of progress on the scale, cost, quality, market adoption, and commercial viability is quite high, and the industry is on the right path.  There are external forces that can constrain the growth, which prompts some doubt, but the advancement is ongoing. Today’s bottlenecks and technological challenges in alternative protein innovation can be addressed with significantly more public investments and enabling regulatory frameworks. You can catch GFI India’s presentation and the entire side-event session here.


GFI will continue to engage in forums like UNEA and conferences like COP to ensure that alternative proteins are recognized in multilateral policy as a climate intervention area. To learn more about this, follow our social media and sign up for our newsletter for real-time updates!



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