EXPO MILAN – 2015 Nutrition: energy to the world

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EXPO MILAN – 2015  

Nutrition: energy to the world

The protagonists of the food chain, farmers, experts on nutrition, food companies and logistics wonder how to provide healthy and safe food to the world population that will be reach 9 billion people by the year 2050.

The present production system, the storage and the consumption of food doesn’t meet the present and the future world needs. What we eat is the consequence of the history of the human kind and reminds us about the importance that some kinds of food have had for the development of many cultures such as the wheat in Europe, the corn in Mexico, the rice in Asia and the millet in Africa.

Every community has its own food habits that are affected by the environmental, weather and cultural conditions: in some poor countries they always eat the same type of food since it can easily grow and meals can’t vary since it would be too expensive. That produces a lack of vitamins and proteins and all the precious nutritive substances that make a healthy organism.

We can talk about food sustainability nowadays that is making all suitable choices that reduce the impact on the environment and protect the human rights. The nutrition of modern human beings contains very few nutrients, tastes and diversity so we must go back to our traditions and culture in order to offer a sustainable diet with a low environmental impact aimed at protecting the bio-diversities and that can be appreciated from the cultural and economic point of view, safe and healthy so that natural and human resources can be saved.

It is quite possible that a great many people today are confused about what “food sustainability” means.  This is partially due to the fact that our current food system in the US is extremely broken and also because there are so many conflicting ideas out there so I will share my definition and hope that it sheds a brighter light on the matter.

What exactly do we mean by ‘sustainable’ food?

There are many different views as to what constitutes a ‘sustainable’ food system, and what falls within the scope of the term ‘sustainability’. Strictly speaking sustainability implies the use of resources at rates that do not exceed the capacity of the Earth to replace them. For food, a sustainable system might be seen as encompassing a range of issues such as security of the supply of food, health, safety, affordability, quality, a strong food industry in terms of jobs and growth and, at the same time, environmental sustainability, in terms of issues such as climate change, biodiversity, water and soil quality.

A truly sustainable food system is one which nurtures the people, the animals, the land, the community and the environment.  (1) People – enough nutritious healthy food for everyone & fair wages for workers; (2) Animals – humane treatment from birth to slaughter including natural diets; (3) Land – with the proper care, land can be enhanced by farming and become more bio-diverse.  Animals if raised correctly can fertilize the land instead of pollute it; (4) Community – keeping $$ in the local community, providing jobs; and (5) Environment – growing locally and seasonally eliminates the need for polluting chemicals and transportation.

A recent study conducted by the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin calculated that 16% of the energy consumed in the US was used to produce food, but that 25% of food produced is wasted each year.  This energy lost is actually worth more than our US off shore drilling!  Now isn’t that a giant unsustainable kick in the pants when we have an increasing population going hungry, getting sick and climate change may be at the tipping point?!?!

We are currently at such a critical time in our food system.  Since the industrial revolution, we have been operating under the assumption that bigger is better for business.  The government subsidizes the wrong crops on a mass scale so that the food which ends up in our super markets is super cheap, but is stripped of nutrients.  You truly get what you pay for!  Our population is getting sicker and sicker.  Obesity, diabetes, cancer and allergy rates are at an all-time high and it is expected that within the next few years, each child born will have a 25% chance of getting childhood diabetes.

I think people often forget that the food that we eat is our fuel.  It is what keeps us operating in tip-top shape, and if we get the right fuel, there becomes very little need for medicine.  I am a BIG believer that solving our food issues would also solve our healthcare issues.  I see people spend insane amounts of money on cars and the top quality fuel for them, but then they go and eat the cheapest most unhealthy foods and drive to their next doctor’s appointment.  We need to start sustaining our own health, and if we do it right, the animals, the land, the community and the environment will follow right along!

Why talk about Sustainable Food?

Food is essential to life. It also forms an important part of our cultural identity, and plays an important role in the economy. People are aware that the food they eat is an important factor affecting their health, but what is less well known is the impact producing and consuming food has on the world’s resources. Alongside the cars we drive and the energy we use to heat our houses, the food we produce and consume has a significant impact on the environment through, for example, greenhouse gas emissions, the use of land and water resources, pollution, depletion of phosphorus, and the impact of chemical products such as herbicides and pesticides.

A growing number of analyses question the long-term sustainability of the current trends in the production and consumption of food.  A leading advisory committee on the future of agriculture, made up of experts from EU Member States (known as the EU Standing Committee on Agriculture Research (SCAR) concluded in their latest report that:

Many of today´s food production systems compromise the capacity of Earth to produce food in the future. Globally, and in many regions including Europe, food production is exceeding environmental limits or is close to doing so. Nitrogen synthesis exceeds the planetary boundary by factor of four and phosphorus use has reached the planetary boundary. Land use change and land degradation, and the dependence on fossil energy contribute about one- fourth of Greenhouse Gas emissions. Agriculture, including fisheries, is the single largest driver of biodiversity loss. Regionally, water extracted by irrigation exceeds the replenishment of the resource.

Food impacts almost every component of our lives. The production, processing, packaging, and transportation of the majority of our food are highly dependent on the use of fossil fuels and chemical fertilizers. These can greatly harm our health and the health of the environment. In response, a move towards sustainable food has become an important component of public and environment health.

The CDC envisions a food system that provides healthy, sustainable choices, minimizes environmental impacts, and serves as a model for the broader public health community. It is up to you, as a purchaser and consumer, to consider the impact of food from seed to table. Choosing local, healthy, environmentally responsible food helps promote personal health as well as the overall health of the community.

Plant good food thoughts, grow good food choices!

Sustainable food systems operate in a cycle of sustainable production and support. Farmers can make their food more sustainable by limiting pesticide use and treating their animals humanely and responsibly. Consumers can cast their votes for these healthier and more sustainable foods when they choose to support these farms. Choosing foods that are produced close to home also reduces the impact of our food system on the environment by reducing the distance food travels from farm to table.

It is recommended that we all choose food that: (1) Does not harm the environment; (2) Supports and preserves rural communities; (3) Is healthy and nutritious to eat; (4) Respects farm animals; (5) Provides farmers with a fair wage; (6) Is free of added toxins; (7) Is grown in the local community; and (8) Does not harm the health of farm workers.

A healthy and natural diet must provide the organism with the suitable nutrients and respect the nature and the environment: that’s why the world will meet in Milan, at the Milan Expo 2015.

Kathy Kiefer

 

 

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