Wednesday, November 12, 2008

How the food we consume influence the environment

We recently discussed the consequences of our diet choices for the environment. We talked about how our dietary habits relate to habitat loss and species extinctions. Our conclusions could be summarized in a few lines but our impact is enormous. The proportion of land converted to agriculture to maintain one species (Homo sapiens) is disproportionate. More and more prairies, wetlands and forests are clear up for us to continue enjoying the consumption of a very limited number of light demanding crops (rice, corn, wheat, and soy.) We also noticed that a large proportion of the food produced at large-scale ended up being consumed by domesticated animals. We are impacting the environment through the market. By doing so, we also impact the welfare of other species both wild and domesticated.

The discussion could continue if we consider the oil needed to support modern agriculture, the fertilizer industry, the energy required for production and transportation, and the pollution created by packaging.

Ever since we invented agriculture we have been manipulating plants. Today, the selection by ancient methods continue along the high tech industry. Genetic modified crops (GMO's) are considered by some, the solution to food scarcity [I believe there is already enough food, but it is not appropriately distributed.] Others, like me, think that GMO's crops have escaped not only to the wild but also our ability to track them. Nobody knows where the 'inserted genes' end up. In the same way, very little is known (or published by mass media) about the consequences of GMO's for humans and other species.

We can also talk about how different cultures use food. And we can talk about how many foods end up being discarded to keep market price. The later perhaps could make us angry. This is not the point or perhaps it is. We need to start somewhere. If at least we understand our own contribution in this network, something would have been accomplished.
Lets pass from the academic exercise to action oriented solutions.

To motivate you to keep the discussion, I encourage you to list the factors that could be included in a model to calculate your food print. Reduce that list to only three main factors. Sum the carbon print value of one meal for each person in your house. What is the total impact? This exercise takes about one minute. Please go to 'Is my food causing global warming?'

Tim Lang, University of London

Mirna Santana


  1. This video just highlights the reasons why it is so important that people utilize the farmer's market and CSAs.

  2. I think the biggest problem in terms of a "food footprint" for me is that even though I know I should buy items locally, I usually don't because of the increase in cost. This factor is something i will try to be more mindful of in the future.

  3. This video opened my eyes to the fact that I need to be a better shopper to reduce my "food print" I've never thought about this before. The hardest thing for me will be shopping for seasonal foods.

  4. i think he made a really good point about changing culture and how we need to be more seasonal. i feel that by doing this, it would help to appreciate certain foods that we take for granted and would help us mediate our overall food intake/consumption.