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Be Aware of Sustainable Food Issues

Wednesday, October 22, 2008 by: Lynn Berry
Tags: food supply, health news, Natural News

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(NewsTarget) We need to consider the issues of producing sustainable food, so that we are aware of what we are buying and eating, and in the long run, help the environment. As natural resources are in demand and under pressure, now is the time to start doing something about it.

At any point in time, food is shipped, flown, or trucked all around the world. Oranges from California make their way into supermarkets in Australia, bottled water wings its way from one country to another, and olive oil from Spain goes to all corners of the globe.

We've become accustomed to buying salmon from Norway, cheese from France, wine from Chile, prawns from Indonesia. In many cases, these products are available locally. Is it because of cost, the exotic quality, or habit that we continue our buying pattern? There could be many reasons. What we don't realize is the amount of energy needed to bring these products into our country.

We may be buying imported products because they are cheaper on the supermarket shelf, but we may get more than we bargained for. At times, we're compromising on the quality of food. While we may be paying less, we could be getting more than what we think. Often food contains chemicals, and usually chemicals banned in our home country, and sometimes unhealthy bacteria, such as salmonella and E.coli.

While the product may cost us less than another, it has costs that we often haven't considered. These are typically long term costs associated with green house emissions due to the use of chemicals for producing, transporting, storing and packing food, amongst others.

More serious is that the world's population is at around 6.6 billion and growing. This means that the capacity to produce food for this many, under current environmental conditions, is being threatened.

Agriculture is affecting the availability of water and it is affecting the ability of the soil to produce foods with nutrients. Agriculture is threatening biodiversity as forests make way for single crops. In addition, the overall agricultural practices generate over 30% of all greenhouse emissions.

This really does call for doing things differently, but can we? Current IMF policies (amongst other similar global organizations) have ensured that some countries cannot produce for themselves, but have to import. And now given the increase in food prices, these people cannot afford to buy the imported food. The policies have ensured unsustainable practices for those that can least afford it.

We may feel that this does not effect us, but what we have learned is that impacts are being felt worldwide. Growing sugar cane for ethanol rather than sugar has had a surprising impact. At the core is the amount of money to be made rather than the sustainability of the practice.

As individuals we can make the choice to find sustainable food sources food that is environmentally friendly. This may not be the easiest thing to do. For a start what is sustainable food? In general sustainable food is healthy, good quality, affordable food produced at minimum cost to the environment which can be accessed by everyone.

In the UK an alliance called Sustain has worked to define sustainable food. In summary, it is food produced and traded so that local economies are supported; so that plant and animal diversity is protected and natural resources are protected; and so that there are social benefits in providing healthy, good quality and safe products.

UK supermarket chains, Tasco, Waitrose and Sainsbury are establishing codes of practice in the sourcing of food, with some of them labeling food according to its carbon footprint. In other countries, only organic labeling is providing consumers with the knowledge of, at least, some sustainable food growing conditions.

To produce sustainable food, we need to consider what was involved in producing the food, as well as transporting and packing. We also need to consider water usage, impacts to the natural environment and local communities.

Without sustainable food policies in our region how can we discover whether food is sustainable or not? Here are some questions we might ask:
Where does the animal feed come from?
Where does the fertilizer come from?
What water conservation practices are implemented?
How is the produce transported, stored and packaged?
Are pesticides and herbicides used and if so, where do they come from?

Consider also these tips for sustainable eating from the Australian Conservation Foundation:

1. Reduce consumption of animal products
More water and more greenhouse gases are needed to produce beef, than other domestic animals. It is suggested that you buy pasture-fed rather than grain-fed beef, and to buy seafood from sustainable sources this information may be available from fisheries (for Australia see www.marineconservation.org.au).

2. Buy unprocessed or unrefined foods
This is what nutritionists and natural health practitioners have been saying for years. For the environment, less energy and water is required in processing, and less packaging is used. Fresh fruits and vegetables and dried beans over canned.

3. Buy only what you can eat
An astonishing amount of food is thrown away. In Australia alone $2.9 billion of fresh food was thrown away in 2004. It costs money to throw food away using water, energy and other resources.

4. Buy certified organic
Certified organic uses no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.

5. Buy locally produced food
It has traveled a shorter distance.

6. Buy food in season
Food in season is typically not shipped from other countries, but from nearby areas.


About the author

Lynn Berry is passionate about personal development, natural health care, justice and spirituality. She has a website at www.lynn-berry.com.

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