You may have heard that some foods are a more ‘environmentally sustainable’ choice, but what does that really mean? To get a basic understanding of how your food choices have an effect on environment, you need a few basic concepts explained.
Organic Foods – Fresh product that is certified organic has been farmed without the use of artificial fertilizers or artificial pest control. In addition to this, soil fertility is managed using composting and crop rotation, and pests are controlled using mechanical or natural methods. This means that organically grown fresh produce may contain lower levels of synthetic chemical contaminants.
Biodynamic Foods – Produce bearing this label lets the consumer know more about the farming method used to raise the food in question. It describes a type of farming that follows the principles of organic farming, but with some additional regulations. In bio-dynamic farming, the farm is viewed as a close system, so that the waste products of one part of the farm (such as manure) are reused in another part of the farm (such as in compost for fertilizer) in a natural cycle. Actively caring for environment is another aspect of the bio-dynamic approach.
Genetically Modified Foods – GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) occur when new genetic material is inserted into plants or animals in order to give them new qualities, such as disease resistance. Examples of currently available GMOs are soybeans, cotton and canola, which have all been modified to resist week killer, there by making it easier to control weeds within the crop. Some people have concerns about GMOs for health reasons (genetically modified foods may have higher-levels of weed killer residue on them, for example, or cause unpredictable allergies), or for environmental reasons (if they become weeds, their herbicide resistance makes them difficult to eradicate).
Sustainable Foods - If a food choice is sustainable, it means that it would be possible to maintain production of this food in the long term, without adverse impact on the environment. An unsustainable food choice is the one that is available only in very limited supply, or is resource-intensive, whose production/transport consumes a lot of fuel or produces greenhouse gases. Such foods become extremely scarce and expensive in the long term. In general farmed plant foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds) are the most sustainable food choices when they are consumed in any season. Animal foods are generally more resource-intensive, for obvious reasons, but this differs for different types of animal foods.