Modern agriculture has provided plenty of cheap food to many of us in the West. However, this comes at a great cost. Our modern, globalized food production system can be described as an industry that transforms fossil fuels into cheap food. We use fossil fuels for fertilizer, pesticides and transportation and to create monocultures of crops at ever larger scales. However, monocultures don’t exist in nature, eco-systems are diverse to be resilient. Our current production methods are unsustainable since they contribute to climate change and we’re running out of fossil fuels. Other unsustainable practices are the ever increasing need for cropland which leads to deforestation, the degradation of soil, the depletion of groundwater reserves, methane emissions by our livestock, its negative impact on biodiversity and the overfishing in the oceans.
To make things worse, much of our food is processed by short-term profit seeking companies who are incentivized to make food ever cheaper to improve margins. Squeezing money out of ever longer supply chains inevitably leads to environmental and social costs that are externalized. Adding cheaper ingredients to food – such as sugar, fat or water – is another result.
The diets to which we have become accustomed are unhealthy for us. Too much meat, fat, sugar, additives and pesticide residues have contributed to obesity and a cancer epidemics. They are also unhealthy for the environment, with very high water and land footprints, particularly when it comes to meat, diary and fish. And they have become unhealthy for the animals we keep, often in large numbers in small spaces. They need ever more antibiotics and hormones to grow to the desired size.
The sustainable nutrition solutions we look for focus on healthy diets in sync with our natural environment. Those could be more plant-based diets with a lower environmental footprint, locally produced food with a shorter supply chain to avoid transportation emissions and improve freshness. Or organic food and alternative farming methods that don’t use pesticides and only natural fertilizer, if any.
Click here to see our solutions for sustainable nutrition.
Picture: A field with organic vegetables at the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm in Kattendorf, Germany