Australia's national science agency has hit back at claims it was pursuing a policy of undermining livestock industries.
The CSIRO said it was as committed today as it had been for a century to support agricultural industries across cropping, livestock, aquaculture and horticulture.
"Animal-based protein sources such as red meat and dairy will always play a vital role in human diets globally," a CSIRO spokeswoman said.
"Plant-based protein sources are complementary to animal-based sources, and as the world's population continues to grow, protein will need to be produced more sustainably and from more sources - not fewer - to feed the world."
The CSIRO has come under attack in recent weeks over its promotion of plant-based meats.
The Red Meat Advisory Council last week claimed the CSIRO was "driving an agenda that goes beyond the remit of a taxpayer funded research organisation".
The latest flashpoint was CSIRO's rollout of a national campaign last week offering dietary advice for parents and children.
The CSIRO released an online "tuckerbox" to encourage families to take on a "healthy and sustainable challenge" which included the recommendation to choose plant-based food over red meat.
The advice prompted Agriculture Minister David Littleproud to post the following on social media: "It is not CSIRO's job to advertise, their job is to support all industries. Red meat is an important part of any balanced diet."
Mr Littleproud has since posted the copy of a letter he has sent to CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall saying it was unacceptable for the organisation to be advocating for plant-based meat over "genuine" meat products.
The CSIRO spokeswoman said the organisation "was not encouraging children to switch to plant-based diets".
"Of the 22 items in the online tuckerbox, six are derived from animals and only one is a plant-based meat alternative," the spokeswoman said.
That explanation has already prompted another response from the Red Meat Advisory Council comprising of Australian red meat and livestock national employer associations and peak commodity representative organisations.
Council chair John McKillop said the CSIRO's denial that the taxpayer-funded agency isn't encouraging children to switch away from meat was a joke when its own website instructs children that "Instead of a beef burger, how about one made of legumes?"
"The agency's refusal to retract or apologise for the misinformation it has published exposes an extremely concerning anti-livestock and anti-meat agenda," Mr McKillop said.
"There is absolutely no excuse for why CSIRO is telling Australian children that red meat is the least sustainable food available when there is little, if any, peer reviewed evidence to support this.
"It seems that there are factions within CSIRO who are more interested in pushing ideology than science which is a disappointment for an organisation that was highly trusted by the taxpayers that fund it."
The CSIRO spokeswoman said recent claims made by the council were not correct
The spokeswoman said a CSIRO report, Growth opportunities for Australian food and agribusiness: Economic analysis and market sizing, identified the ability to value-add across all protein sectors, including the red meat, aquaculture, dairy, plant protein and alternative protein sectors.
"In addition, CSIRO's protein research supports markets broader than human food - CSIRO works on proteins to benefit the livestock industry through developing more productive and nutritious feedstock crops, which has multiple co-benefits to farmers," the spokeswoman said.
"CSIRO works extensively with livestock farmers and allied industries to improve their productivity, profitability and sustainability through better livestock breeds and management practices."
CSIRO also responded to claims it was spending taxpayer money on plant-based food start-ups.
"Investment decisions made by the CSIRO Innovation Fund are made independently of CSIRO," the spokeswoman said.
The investment fund, Main Sequence, was spun out of CSIRO with almost half a billion dollars in funds which supports several plant-based companies including dairy, meat and eggs.
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