Tuesday, 3 August 2010


This week, with tummies rumbling, we've been looking at what food choices we all can make to reduce the impact of our appetites on the environment.

1. Meaty
UN’s top climate scientist Rajendra Pachauri states that “People should consider eating less meat as a way of combating global warming. UN figures suggest that meat production puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than transport.”
It really comes down to consumer choice. An answer to meaty palates is to swap a meal of red meat to chicken.
A nice website to help with ideas for vegetarian food is:

The campaign argues it need not be all or nothing when it comes to meat, simply cutting down is well worth doing, for your purse and your planet. With both celebrity endorsements and charities such as the World Land Trust this site makes vegetarianism very appealing.

2. Fashion
This last thought leads one to wonder whether ethical consuming is just another trend, as a backlash to the general drift towards ignoring the history of a product which peaked in the nineties. It's interesting to see how food fashions reflect our society's zeitgeist. For example our countries recent discovery of 'superfood' where faith is placed in expensive, exotic, snack size tubs to insure you appear to be and are healthy.

The popularity of blueberries has pushed more local berries off the shelves of supermarkets. Many native berries are better suited to the UK's growing conditions have a similar nutritional profile.

The way to reverse the tide of berry monopoly, with local berries being swept away by imports is to buy locally and support a variety of goods, because raspberries are delicious.

3. Farting and belching
Disgusting news shows that the average person lets rip two to three shot glasses of carbon dioxide every 24 hours. (Unless you're a vegetarian, in which case you may need a pint glass which is a disgusting thing to imagine.) Scientists advise a diet low in baked beans, corn-on-the-cob, green peppers, cabbage, milk and raisins.

All the same this does not serve as an argument against vegetarianism because a cow's fart far 'outweighs' anything a human can muster. In fact a team of Japanese scientists believe they have devised a way to neutralise the perilous methane produced by 1.5 billion cows. Read more here:

4. Rice
An International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) study forecasts a 15% decrease in irrigated rice yields in developing countries and a 12% increase in rice prices as a result of climate change by 2050.
This is a huge problem in developing countries. Rice plays a central role in feeding more than 3 billion people, including most of the world’s 1 billion poor.

Whilst production will be negatively effected by changes in climate, simultaneously rice production contributes to the problem. It is worth cutting down the amount of rice you eat.
For more information visit:

Genetic modification is one of the suggested solutions to the problem, with scientists aiming to engineer a rice that take four minutes less to cook, thus saving a total of 10,000 hours of cooking time everyday. However, despite long debates, GE products remain controversial. Much research into genetic modification is funded and supported by biotech companies. One Royal Society fellow, Dr Arpad Pusztai, has asked for a credible GM testing protocol to be established. Ten years on in 2008, he said we still don't have one. Greenpeace summarises the problems with GM food. It's probably best to avoid!

5. Crofting
Crofts are small, often self-sufficient farms in Scotland. Crofting is a key example of traditional, sustainable agriculture. This website and blog describes the 'trials and tribulations of a modern crofter', who is trying to 'lead a more traditional lifestyle while lessening his impact on the environment'. Whilst owning and managing land seems out of reach for us, it is nonetheless an inspiring read. Entries range from accounts of ploughing their potato field, to the best way to plant trees. As a city dweller, much of the reality of farming is new to me. Stonehead Croft is not a business and they do not sell their produce. Yet it is interesting to remind ourselves of the roots of agriculture, the origin of what we eat, and the processes it goes through to get to us.
Furthermore, recipes are posted and there's a good looking one for berry burst muffins - for all your local berries!

6. Profit based companies have more and more power over the world's food system. The UK Food Group is a network for non-governmental organisations working on global food and afgriculture issues. They are researching the impact of the international food supply chain, with the intention of developing policies promoting 'sustainable and equitable corporate practice'. Quite a mouthful. But policy has an important role in the future of agriculture which leads us to

7. Geoff Tansey
Geoff Tansey is a writer and consultant who is working for a fair and sustainable food system. He has written a book called 'The Future Control of Food', which is a guide to the key issues of intellectual proerty and ownership, genetics, biodiversity, and food security. At first, rules and regulations about intellectual property don't seem to have much to do with agriculture. But, he says, carrying on as we are - commodifying everything - will lead to genetically modified organisms, grown meat, and licensing rather than ownership of everything from seeds to music: a kind of 'corporate feudalism'. We need to change the framework of globally imposed intellectual property rights. Read his excellent address at a UK Food Group events here, in the events section

Tansey and the UK Food Group are focusing on laws, rules and regulation that will faciliate the kind of food system we want - food democracy and an approach tackling poverty and hunger.

7. Global
Up to 800 million people do not have enough to eat. This fact surely makes our decisions about what foods to consume here in the UK seem less challenging.

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