Sustainability

Category Archives: Agriculture and Food

Americans waste 150,000 tons of food each day – equal to a pound per person


Research shows people with healthy diets rich in fruit and vegetables are the most wasteful and calls for better education for consumers

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/apr/18/americans-waste-food-fruit-vegetables-study

About 150,000 tons of food is tossed out in US households each day, equivalent to about a third of the daily calories that each American consumes. Fruit and vegetables were the most likely to be thrown out, followed by dairy and then meat.

This waste has an environmental toll, with the volume of discarded food equivalent to the yearly use of 30m acres of land, 780m pounds of pesticide and 4.2tn gallons of irrigated water. Rotting food also clogs up landfills and releases methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Researchers at the US Department of Agriculture analysed eight years of food data, up to 2014, to see where food is wasted and also what members of the public say they do at mealtimes. The research has been published in Plos One.

 

A eureka moment for the planet: we’re finally planting trees again

After centuries of bad stewardship, communities are at last starting to see the benefits of forests.

China plans to plant forests the size of Ireland. Latin American countries have pledged to restore 20m hectares of degraded forest and African countries more than 100m hectares. India is to plant 13m hectares, and on a single day last year 1.5 million people planted 66m trees in Madhya Pradesh alone.

Much of Europe is physically greener than it was just a few years ago. England is to plant 50m trees in a new coast-to-coast forest and newly planted saplings now cover tens of thousands of hectares of former farmland in Ireland, Norway and France. From Costa Rica to Nepal and Peru to Mongolia, tree planting has become a political, economic and ecological cause, and a universal symbol of restoration, regrowth and faith in the future. More than 120 countries promised in 2015 to plant and restore large areas of forest as a response to the climate crisis, and the UN has set a target to restore 350m hectares by 2030 – an area bigger than India.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/13/worlds-lost-forests-returning-trees

Pesticides Are Making Children Aggressive

“Pesticides cause a multitude of adverse effects on humans. However, they are especially harmful to children.”

Pesticides cause a multitude of adverse effects  on humans. However, they are especially harmful to children. They may have something to do with the mass-shootings in schools all over America because some of them are neurotoxins. This means they affect and damage the central nervous system and the brain – of all animals, including humans.

Warren Porter, professor emeritus of zoology at the University of Wisconsin, conducted experiments with ground water – water drawn from the ground of farms with typical levels of pesticides and fertilizers. He chose farm water contaminated with the insecticide aldicarb, the herbicide atrazine, and nitrogen fertilizer. He tested that mixture on white mice and deer mice.

The concentrations of the fertilizer with each of the pesticides (aldicarb and atrazine) in the ground water were of the order of magnitude the Environmental Protection Agency says the chemicals cause “no unreasonable harm to man and the environment.” In other words, Porter put to the ultimate test the assurances of EPA and the chemical industry about the toxins EPA registers (approves) – that they are safe and farmers may spray on crops Americans eat.

Porter discovered the mixture of common ground water and farm chemicals had detrimental effects on the animals’ nervous, immune, and endocrine systems. The mice became aggressive and had problems with their thyroid hormones. Their immune system was also compromised in its ability to make antibodies against foreign proteins.

Organic food means food without farm sprays, sludge, radiation, and genetic engineering. This healthy food is also political food: helping us to fight pollution and control by the agrochemical-industrial-political complex.

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/04/14/pesticides-are-making-children-aggressive

Regenerative Organics: Drawing a Line in the Soil

In recent years, we’ve seen a boom in production and sales of organic foods worldwide. The global organic food market is expected to grow by 16 percent between 2015 and 2020, a faster rate than conventionally-grown foods.

This seems like good news—but in truth, organic farming makes up just a tiny fraction of the global agriculture system controlled by a few giant corporations generating enormous profits. And it’s about to get worse: If current deals in the works make it past European and U.S. regulators, three companies—Bayer, DowDupont and ChemChina—will own two-thirds of the world’s seeds and pesticides.

This unfortunate reality threatens to hold us hostage for decades as conventional agriculture continues to ravage our planet: gobbling up immense fossil fuels for production and shipping, flooding the earth with toxic synthetic pesticides and deadening our soil’s biodiversity with GMO seeds (along with the taste of our food). Conventional agriculture also generates a quarter of the greenhouse gas emissions now baking our atmosphere.

And food is just part of the picture. Consider cotton, a fiber used to make a large majority of our clothing globally: just one percent is grown organically. That figure has stayed mostly stagnant since at least 1996, the year Patagonia started sourcing 100 percent organic cotton. It’s especially appalling considering 16 percent of all pesticides used worldwide are used to grow conventional cotton—exposure to which has been linked to higher rates of cancer and other diseases. Conventional GMO farming practices also reduce soil fertility and biodiversity, require more water and large amounts of herbicides, alter the nutritional content of our food, and result in toxic runoff that pollutes our rivers, lakes and oceans.

Thankfully, the status quo isn’t our only option. Regenerative organic agriculture includes any agricultural practice that increases soil organic matter from baseline levels over time, provides long-term economic stability for farmers and ranchers, and creates resilient ecosystems and communities. Put simply, this approach presents an opportunity to reclaim our farming system on behalf of the planet and human health—while fulfilling the obvious need to feed and clothe billions of people around the world. We can produce what we need and revitalize soil at the same time, thereby sequestering carbon currently polluting the atmosphere and warming our planet.

https://www.patagoniaprovisions.com/pages/regenerative-organics-drawing-a-line-in-the-soil

For a deeper dive, take a look at Unbroken Ground, a 25-minute film by Chris Malloy on the wonderful work of four different groups to help create higher-quality food that is far more nutritious and delicious than anything our worn-out industrial farms can produce.

https://www.patagoniaprovisions.com/pages/unbroken-ground

Wrapped in a Sea of Plastic

Half a century of this “uncontrolled experiment” is fast becoming as serious a problem as climate change.

Plastics everywhere was bad enough, but now multiple studies have found that 94 percent of our drinking water and 93 percent of sampled bottled water worldwide are full of plastic particles and chemicals, including BPA, heavy metals, phthalates, pesticides, PCBs and other chemicals, many of which are linked in animal studies as well as some human studies to cancer, premature puberty, reduced immunity, birth defects, endocrine disruption, insulin resistance, and other major diseases.  And we have no idea and neither does the FDA, EPA, or any other federal agency, whether this lethal cocktail, which binds together with other toxins, is having an even more profound impact on our health and that of our kids.  What we get now from those agencies is “conflicting findings” and “uncertainties” about the potential impact of plastics-related chemicals. What we do know is that governments only test or analyze the impacts of individual chemicals to determine the levels of potentially life-threatening exposure, making it impossible to figure out the combined total load of chemicals from plastics our babies can safely absorb.

https://www.commondreams.org/views/2018/03/31/wrapped-sea-plastic

Ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup spray linked to shorter pregnancies

Women in Indiana’s “corn belt” had shorter pregnancies if they were regularly exposed to glyphosate, a new peer-reviewed study has found

“Glyphosate is the most heavily used herbicide worldwide but the extent of exposure in human pregnancy remains unknown,” Indiana University researchers write in the journal Environmental Health.

The chemical is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup spray, which accompanies the company’s genetically modified corn and soybean seeds so that farmers can freely kill weeds without destroying their seeds.

Glyphosate-intensive farming has taken over industrial agriculture in the United States, resulting in 300 million pounds of the spray applied annually. Some researchers, as well as public health advocates and environmental groups, have charged that little is known about the potential health effects of exposure to a spray prevalent in the environment and the food supply.

To study the effect of glyphosate on pregnancy, researchers with the Indiana University Fairbanks School of Public Health took urine samples from 71 pregnant women who live in central Indiana, which produces much of the world’s corn.

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/ingredient-in-monsantos-roundup-spray-linked-to-shorter-pregnancies-032318.html

Try ‘Wildevore Diet’ For Healthy Living

We have all heard of vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian diets. But have you heard about wildevore diet? Surely, no! Nowadays, dieting is considered a national obsession among everyone. These types of diets mentioned above are definitely healthy and less fatty, but it might have a negative impact on one’s health and sense of well being. Concerns about climate change, environmental stress and animal welfare mean that “what we eat is an ethical as well as a health issue.”

The two women, who are promoting the all-new ‘wildevore diet’, said that the new approach will help people to show how they can eat to benefit their own health while making planet-friendly choices at the same time. The Wildevore diet incorporates some of the philosophies of veganism, vegetarianism, flexitarianism, ethical omnivorism, and clean eating, but it looks more closely at the pressures on the environment and the impact that has on human health, according to The Ecologist.

The new eating approach identifies on how to make the best choices both ‘nutritionally and ethically’ and aims at educating the people about where their food originates from. Health problems Caroline Grindrod, an environmental conservationist, writer, and Wildevore coach, and Georgia Winfield-Hayes, a nutritionist both agree that the new eating diet is not for the “faint-hearted, requiring some serious homework and a desire to change habits.”

The system can work for vegans and meat-eaters, but there is an underlying need to understand the consequences of food choices. In the Wildevore diet, meat reared on regenerative farms and fed on natural diets is allowed for its human health benefits. Georgia, who has written extensively on human nutrition, said that a vegan diet does not ‘always’ provide the best results.

‘From a health perspective a vegan diet, in the short term is an amazing way to cleanse the body and this feels great,” Georgia said. “However, long-term it can create serious health problems. Soya, the main protein source for many vegans, is a hormone-disrupting food and can cause our own reproductive systems to stop working correctly,” she added.

https://www.mid-day.com/articles/try-wildevore-diet-for-healthy-living/19235171

Coffee and Deforestation: Addressing Coffee’s Footprint

About one third of the world’s land, more than four billion hectares, is forest. Every year, this area decreases by an average of 13 million hectares, about the same size as 35 football fields per minute. The largest losses are observed in Africa and South America, mainly due to agriculture.

Coffee originates from the humid, tropical forests of Southern Ethiopia and South Sudan, and around the globe it is largely grown in many former forest landscapes,  some of which are located in biodiversity hotspots or protected areas, such as the Mata Atlântica and the Cerrado region in Brazil, the Mesoamerican Forests in Central America and the Eastern Afromontane Forests hosting the genetic diversity of Coffea Arabica in Ethiopia.

Yet the relationship between coffee and forest cover today is weakly addressed in our sector. We look at many other aspects related to sustainability in coffee: Where will future production come from if young people continue migrating from rural areas? How can productivity be increased to meet growing demand? How strongly will climate change impact production volumes, quality or specific coffee regions? Which varieties should be promoted to cope with rising temperatures and more irregular rainfall patterns? How can supply chains strengthen coffee producers in their operations?

Coffee and Deforestation: Addressing Coffee’s Footprint

Ride shotgun on this game-changing farm in “One Hundred Thousand Beating Hearts,” streaming now on Salon Premium

Will Harris, a good ol’ boy Georgia rancher, may well be our nation’s best bet for a better, more sustainable future. He’s the subject of a documentary by Peter Byck, “One Hundred Thousand Beating Hearts.”

Tell us one story about the production.

When Will was taking me around the surrounding counties, to see the dying towns, small towns that had a strong agricultural base and that had been shriveling up due to poor economics for the local folks, we were filming along an old mill and rain was impending. I could see the coming squall down the road and it appeared to me to be about four minutes away. At about three minutes [out], when Will finished his answer to one of my questions, I grabbed the camera and tripod, told him we’d better run back to his truck, and as soon as we shut the doors, it started to really come down. He was impressed with my sense to read the rain. That made me feel good.

What’s been your past interest in sustainable animal agriculture?

I look to regenerative agriculture, and AMP [adaptive multi-paddock] grazing in specific, as a potential way to draw down significant amounts of carbon from the air and store it in the soils. Carbon is the currency for healthy soils — and healthy soils produce healthy foods and help farmers to make more food on their land. My experience is filming farmers and ranchers across the U.S., Canada and the UK. These innovative producers of food are my heroes.

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