Thursday, January 08, 2009

What is sustainable food?

by Jennifer Litz, Indianapolis Sustainable Food Examiner

Do you know where your food comes from? If Googlability is a good benchmark of popularity, the world is abuzz with supporting its local farmers, community supported agriculture and being mindful eaters: Type in “sustainable food” and the search engine brings up over 11 million results.
Not quite that many know what it means. Its name implies that sustainable food is self-sufficient and capable of being produced continually, which it is. But unlike organic food, which is now regulated by the FDA if it is to have such billing, sustainable food is more a philosophy about the way a food is produced and eaten.
The tenants of sustainability—nourishing the land via biodiversified plants that enrich soil; conservation of resources like water; assurance of animal welfare; and economically and socially just farmer and worker conditions—imply the consumer’s inclusion in this full-circle ideology. The sustainable food movement is for people who are mindful about what they eat.
For example: A food cannot have been produced with pesticides, man-made fertilizers, genetically modified organisms or prodded with hormones, antibiotics or ionizing radiation to be certified 100 percent organic (there is a variety of other USDA organic stickers). Organic practices offer potential for reducing harmful ingredients, like the herbicide Atrazine, which has turned male frogs into hermaphrodites in experiments.
But in his June 4, 2006, article “Mass Natural,” premier food writer and naturalist Michael Pollan ("In Defense of Food"; "The Omnivore's Dilemma") decried the rise of big organic farms that supply to places like Safeway and Wal-Mart. He described organic feedlots whose cows nosh “organic" grain in cramped conditions--though they’re meant to eat grass, and milk’s good fat content suffers when they don't. Mass organic demand also encourages more imported veggies that take long, petroleum-burning trips from places like Argentina and China. These conditions and practices aren’t sustainable in any sense of the word.

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