Food for thought, environment, and money.

A trip to the grocery store is costing more and more these days. There's a variety of reasons for why this is happening, but I've found myself changing my diet just a little bit to try to do my part for the earth and save a little dough.

I did a little research and found some neat resources. The first couple are from a blog and e-newsletter from NutritionalData.com. Although I try to go meatless a few times a week, I find it tough to stay away from dairy products.

  • One of the biggest ways to lower the energy cost of your diet is to reduce the amount of animal products you consume. It takes about ten times as much energy to produce a calorie of animal protein as it does to produce a calorie of vegetable protein. This has led some eco-conscious eaters to adopt a completely vegetarian diet. But even one or two meatless days a week can also have a substantial effect—on both your health and the health of the planet.
  • Five Ways to Make Your Diet Healthier (for the Planet) - recommends people to eat local, eat seasonal, eat fewer packaged and preprocessed foods, support small farms and choose organic products.
  • Find some local farms and farm markets at LocalHarvest.

I also found quite a few other issues revolving around food, including rising global food prices, biofuels and genetic modification of food. This is the darker side of the food discussion.

  • The Economist had a great article discussing biofuels, demand and supply, and rich-world subsidies. The article said that the rise in food prices is "...the self-inflicted result of America's reckless ethanol subsidies." The article continues:
    "This year biofuels will take a third of America's (record) maize harvest. That affects food markets directly: fill up an SUV's fuel tank with ethanol and you have used enough maize to feed a person for a year...The 30m tonnes of extra maize going to ethanol this year amounts to half the fall in the world's overall grain stocks." [emphasis added]
  • Another article in the Times (UK) rattles off a bunch of food one can expect to see keep rising, including chicken, beef, wine, milk, bread and rice. The only food that shows hope, not surprisingly, are vegetables.

Genetic Modification (GM) of food is also a pretty hot topic. Folks in the United States are still a little unsure about what to think of GM foods, but Europeans are much more skeptical of them. Here are some facts I gathered from the "Genetically Modified Food" chapter of Risk: A Practical Guide for Deciding What's Really Safe and What's Really Dangerous in the World:

  • In the US, GM foods are not required to be labeled as such.
  • Advocates cite the advantages of GM: its precision, the possibilities for increasing agricultural productivity, producing health-enhancing drugs, reducing the need for pesticides and herbicides
  • Chapter said,
    "Critics cite the dangers of creating new organisms by inserting foreign genes from one species into a completely different one. They say that while these new transgenic species may be benign in the lab, introducing them into natural ecosystems is dangerous because we can't predict how these new genes and traits will interact with other organisms. They fear that unpredictable outcomes could be bad not only for the environment, but also for human health." [underline added]
  • Article said that there's really no hard evidence to support the claim that GM foods produce major health risks, but a viewing of The Corporation might make you think twice when going to the grocery store. It also might make you lose hope in humanity.

At the end of the chapter, these resources were provided for more information about genetic engineering in foods:

  • Food and Drug Administration
    CFSAN Outreach and Information Center
    Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
    200 C Street SW (HFS-555)
    Washington, DC 20204
    (888) SAFEFOOD or (888) 723-3366

  • Biotech Info - A website cosponsored by several consumer and environmental
    organizations, including Consumers Union and the Science and Environmental Health Network.
  • Industry Council for Biotechnology Information
  • World Health Organization UN Food and Agriculture Organization

    "Safety Aspects of Genetically Modified Foods of Plant Origin," June 2000

    "Evaluation of Allergenicity of Genetically Modified Foods," January 2001

    "Safety Assessment of Foods Derived from Genetically Modified Microorganisms," September 2001
  • Institute of Food Technologists

1 comment:

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