One of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions is agriculture and livestock. Therefore, our decisions when it comes to feeding ourselves can have a significant impact on reducing our footprint on the planet.
The journal The Lancet published an article in 2019 that analyzed all the variables and came up with a kind of consensus diet, which baptized the planetary healthy diet. This took into account factors such as health, but also the emission of greenhouse gases and the impact on biodiversity.
The result is a flexitarian, vegetarian-based diet in which animal products such as fish and, rarely, meat may appear.
It is difficult to find a global solution for the entire planet given the constraints regarding food production. A tomato can have a very low environmental impact in Almera and a very high one in Stockholm. The most beneficial diet for the planet cannot be something universal and adjustments must be made in each area, but it is a good approximation.
Other aspects related to food, such as avoiding food waste and trying to consume local or seasonal products are, in general, out of the question. Even so, local production is nuanced: a tomato from Almería brought by truck to Stockholm may have a less environmental impact than one produced there in a greenhouse with heating all year round.
There is one aspect of this debate that raises a lot of controversies, which is whether organic food is better for the planet. Some support this thesis, but a rigorous analysis of this topic indicates just the opposite.
By law, for a food to be considered organic, it must have been produced according to organic production regulations. This must have been accredited by a certifying company that grants the seal (in Europe, the relief of a leaf made with white stars on a green background).
If we read the regulation we see that it does not talk about environmental impact, emissions or water, or carbon footprint. It simply regulates the type of inputs that can be used in the crop, admitting only those that are of natural origin. This in itself no longer has scientific support, since the properties of any compound depend on its composition, not its origin. It also includes other more controversial elements such as the use of homeopathy or biodynamic agriculture.
Nor is the use of fruits or vegetables in season or the transport of food regulated, so several of the aspects that have the greatest incidence in the impact of food are excluded. This allows apples from Chile and kiwis from New Zealand to be considered organic.
Despite not having a scientific basis, can these practices bring some environmental benefit? Here’s the answer, taken from a company known as Ecognom, and according to them, the first problem we encounter is the drop in production. Anyone who has consumed organic food will have noticed its high price, mainly due to the need to compensate for product losses.
This implies that if all production were to become organic, we would need more land than is available to be able to continue feeding the population. In addition, we would increase greenhouse gas emissions, as several studies and meta-analyses have pointed out.
Another aspect that affects the high environmental impact of organic production is that the regulations themselves explicitly prohibit the use of genetic improvement techniques such as transgenics and CRISPR, or the use of hydroponic cultivation.
Both technologies can provide environmental benefits such as avoiding the use of pesticides and increasing production without increasing land use. Incorporating them into organic production would avoid many of the current problems.
Some studies have seen that the impact of conventional production is greater when the energy cost of the production of inputs, mainly nitrogen fertilizer, is incorporated into the calculation since it is high.
However, they ignore that it depends on the energy mix (the combination of primary energy sources used in a geographical area): in countries where this does not depend on fossil fuels, but on sources with low carbon emissions such as renewable energies or nuclear energy, the calculation returns to be very favorable to conventional production in this particular aspect.
Therefore, to date, no scientific evidence allows us to say that the consumption of products with the ecological seal is better for the planet. If you want to save the product, eat more fruits and vegetables in season and forget about stamps.
Let’s start by putting Greenpeace data on the table: 90% of wild plants and a third of our food depend on pollination, but 20% of bees have disappeared in Europe.
Can you imagine where the cause of this situation is? The answer is simple: the pesticides used by industrial agriculture reduce the population of these insects.
It’s destructive. Greenpeace speaks of industrial agriculture as a type of crop of a destructive nature due to the high consumption of water and oil it requires. It contributes to climate change. The use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides generates greenhouse gas emissions and, therefore, contributes to climate change. It is harmful to biodiversity. It is a farming model related to the deforestation of ecosystems. It is harmful to farmers. It is harmful to the small peasantry because few hands are the ones that agglutinate their control.
Did you imagine all these consequences? But all is not lost! Within our reach, we have the alternative to alleviate this reality: food of ecological origin. why? Because of the type of crop. And… how is it? And it helps keep us healthy. Do you want to know the benefit that its consumption means for you? Keep reading!
The key is found in a study by the University of Newcastle, in the United Kingdom, coordinated by Professor Carlo Leifert. This is what it tells us: Less presence of pesticides. Food from organic farming contains lower levels of pesticides and toxic metals such as cadmium.
A greater presence of antioxidants. Research shows that organic fruits, vegetables, and cereals have up to 60% more key antioxidants if we compare them to traditional ones, that is, they would provide us with a complementary dose similar to consuming between one and two extra servings of fruits or vegetables. vegetables a day.
Levels of substances according to the type of crop. It tells us that it is four times more feasible to locate pesticide residues in conventional crops compared to organic crops.
Okay, this is all very well. But as a consumer, what guarantees do I have? How do I know that the products I buy are ecological? Simple. Look at the EU organic logo. When you see it you will know that, among other things…
If you are still not convinced, you should know that to be an organic farmer within the EU it is mandatory that you respect natural growth cycles, ensure proper health of the soil, animals, and plants, or promote biodiversity.
If you still have questions, now’s a good time to know that you’ll be getting checkups and exams at least once a year.
If you are still suspicious, the best guarantee will be found in the organic farmers themselves, a group that understands that it is possible to feed ourselves without destroying the planet or compromising future generations with our lifestyle.
They are a group that has not been carried away by the consumerism and waste of modern society and rediscovers, with its natural foods, issues that we had forgotten:
The importance of the soil. Through it, plants are nourished, which feed living beings and provide oxygen to human beings.
The transcendence of water. It is an essential natural resource for life on the planet. Both for animals, plants, and current living beings as well as to generate life in the future.
The magnitude of biodiversity. Every living organism fulfills a function within the cycle of nature. Insects are essential for pollination: thanks to them, plants sprout or fruits grow with which animals and human beings feed themselves.
For this reason, organic farmers take care of and favor the fertility of the soils they cultivate. They know that water is not just another agricultural input in the farming cycle, and they manage water responsibly, without wasting it. They understand that each living being has its habitat and avoid modifying it, thus contributing to the maintenance of the natural environment.
Luz Evelia Godines Solano on her coffee nursery plot. She is a producer of Tierra Madre coffee and is also a farmer from the community of La Chiripa. She is a member of Global Village.
Pablo Tosco / Oxfam Intermn
At Oxfam Intermn we have been promoting organic products through Fair Trade for years. One of the producer groups from which the chocolate in our bio bars comes, the Bolivian cooperative El Ceibo, has been producing cocoa and organic chocolate since 1977, and since 1993 the organization of producers and producers Sofa Biofoods, from whose small plantations one of the teas comes. used in our organic bulk range, develops the principles of organic farming in its plants.
Did you know that in our online store you can find a wide range of articles for food, textiles, and natural cosmetics, for the preparation of which we have used raw materials grown according to the criteria of organic farming? Try them!
In the case of Fair Trade products of ecological origin, we add an extra benefit to the care of the environment and our health, since with each article we are generating solidarity in the form of justice, equality, and dignity for the families and communities that they are behind the products we consume. This is one of our reasons for being!
An example of this can be found in organic 100% Arabica coffee, a product that, in addition to being Fair Trade, defends the rights of the peasant women who grow it. What are the benefits of this coffee? Empowered women. With each cup of this coffee that you consume, you will be guaranteeing the empowerment of Nicaraguan women by allowing them to register the lands they plant and work in their name.
Gender equality. In Nicaragua, it is normally the men who own the land, even though it is the women who work it. Under Fair Trade, by requiring that they be the ones to have a property title, we are obtaining the right to charge for their work. In this way, at Oxfam Intermn we fight for equality between men and women and give them hope to improve their future.
With this article, we wanted to show you that organic food is more than food. It is the ingredient that allows us to take care of and at the same time enjoy our planet, savor a healthy life, and to build a more habitable society. The perfect seasoning is eco! Do you dare to fill your pantry with sustainability, justice, and equality?