Organic foods are one of a number of healthy food trends that is developing into a longer term commitment to healthier farming practices, and healthier food. It is not only that organic food is healthier to eat; it is also healthier for the environment. Other food trends include SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, environmental) and 100 mile (buying from local growers) foods.
Do you know where your food comes from? Are the asparagus you buy in November coming from a local farmer, or are they being flown in from around the world? What does it cost in energy and environmental impact to get the food from the farm to your table? Do you know the environmental impact of eating red meat? It takes 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef.
Large scale food production – often accomplished through genetically engineered foods – is supported by manufacturers because they can earn more money from more production; and is supported by governments who want to ensure that their citizens have access to food (the premise is that unhealthy food is better than no food). There are more than 6 billion humans in the world, many of whom do not have enough food to eat. But what is the cost to the planet of producing on a mass scale?
Genetic modification, chemicals, pesticides, and intensive farming are just some of the techniques used to increase food production. And those techniques have negative impacts on the environment: from changing the genetic make-up of food, to contamination of land and water, to overworking land. Those food production techniques also result in food with less nutritional value.
Organic food advantages include healthier nutrients in the food and better treatment of the land, water and air. However organic food critics are concerned that the higher cost of producing organic fruits, vegetables, grains and meats results in a limited ability to produce on a mass scale.
Is organic food production sustainable?
Some say that only production of genetically modified foods can supply the demand of our growing global population. Organic food has been getting more attention in the media, in stores, in markets and in homes because more and more people are starting to recognize the importance of lessening our impact on the planet.
One way of doing so is to eat locally grown organic food. We have all begun to experience the effect of a warming climate; weather patterns are changing and intensifying. It is time to take action. After growth and harvesting, the average environmental footprint of non-organic food is 11 per cent for transportation, 46 per cent for production and processing, and 25 per cent for food preparation (storing in fridge, washing, cutting, preparing, and cooking).
The goal is to reduce the transportation, production, processing and even food preparation outputs: if food is grown locally and purchased locally transportation will be reduced; organic foods use less processing and because preservatives are not used, organic products are purchased on an as-used basis (no long shelf life for fresh organic vegetables, fruits, meats and grains).
Eating foods that are grown locally is better for the planet: a reduction of food miles – the distance that food travels from farm to warehouse to store to your fridge and then the dinner table – will help to reduce the carbon footprint of our consumption. (Note: the carbon footprint is a measurement of the impact our activities have on the environment; in this specific instance, it is a measure of the fossil fuels used to grow, harvest, store, ship, and sell food.) Support local organic farmers and make organic more than just one of many healthy food trends; make it a long lasting food decision.
In addition to buying locally grown organic food, you can grow your own. Organic vegetable and fruit gardens are easy to plant and grow: you need some time and attention to manage the soil, the compost, the pests but the result of growing organic food is healthier produce and a healthier environment.