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Exclusive: Study released at Cop28 misused research to underestimate impact of cutting meat eating, say academics

A flagship UN report on livestock emissions is facing calls for retraction from two key experts it cited who say that the paper “seriously distorted” their work.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) misused their research to underestimate the potential of reduced meat intake to cut agricultural emissions, according to a letter sent to the FAO by the two academics, which the Guardian has seen.

Paul Behrens, an associate professor at Leiden University and Matthew Hayek, an assistant professor at New York University, both accuse the FAO study of systematic errors, poor framing, and highly inappropriate use of source data.

Hayek told the Guardian: “The FAO’s errors were multiple, egregious, conceptual and all had the consequence of reducing the emissions mitigation possibilities from dietary change far below what they should be. None of the mistakes had the opposite effect.”

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