Eat in a more environmentally sustainable, responsible and healthy manner
Eating is a very personal thing. I don’t think it’s necessarily appropriate to tell others what to eat. Some people just have foods they can’t stand, get sick from and some they just really like and will eat no matter what. That’s ok. The following are just suggestions and ideas that maybe many people are not aware of or gave any thought of until now.
And of course eating is not just an environmental issue – it’s a health issue. Personally, I believe that the health issues are more important, but that’s my opinion.
“Overfishing occurs when fishing activities reduce fish stocks below an acceptable level. This can occur in any body of water from a pond to the oceans” (source).
Tuna and salmon populations are of special concern. To find salmon from a sustainable source I recommend going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium site to this page – and scroll down to the section titled: “Where can I find sustainable sources for salmon?”.
The bluefin tuna is commonly used in sushi and sashimi and due to its popularity is in danger of becoming extinct (Scientific American, March 2008, p.71). Some other tunas are also overfished, skipjack however is considered ok to eat (source) and is commonly found in canned tuna. More information about tuna can be found at the Bay Aquarium site – scroll down to the bottom of the page to: ‘Where can I find sustainable sources for tuna?’.
Additional information about good and bad seafood choices can be found at the Environmental Defense Fund site.
Eat less meat
Eating less meat is considered by many to be better for the environment because it takes more land and water use to raise animals for food than to grow plant food for people to eat.
From Wikipedia: “According to a 2006 United Nations initiative, the livestock industry is one of the largest contributors to environmental degradation worldwide, and modern practices of raising animals for food contributes on a “massive scale” to air and water pollution, land degradation, climate change, and loss of biodiversity.”
For additional information see: Consequences of Increased Global Meat Consumption on the Global Environment — Trade in Virtual Water and Nutrients.
A recent study in Environmental Science & Technology and reported by National Geographic shows that eating only locally grown foods does not have that much of an environmental impact. Instead what you are eating is likely to be more significant. All the transportation of food is only 11% of foods’ climate impact “compared with the impact from producing the food itself”. Beef production contributes a larger percent to warming from greenhouse gases.
There is also some evidence to suggest that eating meat is not that healthy. For example in many groups of long lived people, they eat very little if any meat.
That might seem surprising to many, but the use of biotechnology and genetically modified crops reduces the amount of herbicides and pesticides used and can allow no-till farming. When farm land is tilled it releases carbon from the soil and into the atmosphere, among other things.
Teosinte and Corn
For millennia people have been breeding plants to increase or introduce the desirable traits they wanted. A well known example is that of teosinte. Teosinte is a wild grass that humans started cultivating over 6000 years ago. They selected for the traits they wanted and eventually teosinte developed into what today is called ‘corn’. Corn is ‘a human invention, a plant that does not exist naturally in the wild. It can only survive if planted and protected by humans’.(source). See some cool pictures of the original teosinte and modern corn from NSF.gov and Berkeley.
In more recent times, since we now have the knowledge of genes and the proteins they express, we can modify our crops in a much more systematic way. With traditional breeding methods like that used in developing teosinte to corn, it wasn’t possible to know or control exactly which genes would be passed on in each round of breeding. Today, since we have a very good understanding of different genes, their proteins, etc. we can choose exactly which genes we want to be present in a plant.
We can now grow crops with increased yields, that are more nutritious and have a reduced environmental impact. For one example:
Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) is a naturally occurring soil bacterium. It makes a protein that kills some insect larvae, in particular, the European corn borer. Before modern insecticides were available the European corn borer resulted in large reductions of corn production. Now, people have been able to take the gene for the BT protein that kills the corn borer and put it in the corn itself. Consequently, when the larvae eat the corn, they die. Very little, if any, insecticide needs to be sprayed on the corn. And it doesn’t hurt beneficial insects like honey bees, lady bugs, spiders, etc. (source)
Its also worth noting that organic food is not necessarily ‘pesticide-free and pathogen-free’ (source). And in fact many organic farmers also use BT – the difference being that they put in on the plants in the form of a liquid or powder. Problems with this method include rain washing it away, requiring repeated applications. The powder can also cause lung problems for farm workers who might breathe it in and in those with weakened immune systems it could lead to lung infections. See:
Bt Is Number One in Organic Survey
Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) (organic gardening product)
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on June 23rd, 2009 at 9:21 am
It is now becoming increasingly evident that the key to our health lies in what we are eating and that the path to better health and longer life lies in eating living foods