Food and Environment

As food is produced from the earth, food systems are part of Earth’s complex ecological systems, and humans ultimately rely on air, soil, water, and sunlight for sustenance.1 Because of this relationship, the ecological health of the earth is dependent on agriculture and food systems and food producers play a key role in maintaining the abundance of these natural resources for present and future generations.1

There are several intersections between environmental issues and food systems between : soil erosion, deforestation, excess manure in areas with high concentrations of livestock, water quality and water supply, loss of genetic diversity in crop plants and livestock, harvesting animals into extinction, damage to local ecosystems, among many others. Some of these issues are driven by market rewards for high yield, cost-efficiency, and product uniformity.1, 2 There are controversies about environmental impacts, consumer concerns, and access to new technologies involved in food systems, especially the genetic manipulation of food.1

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Community Garden hosted at a local middle school

With these challenges in mind, people have identified changes to business practices as one area the may have a positive impact on the environmental. More and more business are incorporating the relationship between their economic outcomes and social and environmental initiatives into their models of success.2 In a study looking at business implementation of social responsibility, businesses expressed a commitment to and described actions toward socially responsible goals, including community, local economy, and the environment.2 How these plans for social responsibility are enacted are varied (and potentially colonizing) and may serve as a smoke screen for not actually changing from the typical practices. At a political level, policy makers, governments, and international agencies should make policy decisions based on credible information about how to meet human food needs while at the same time safeguarding valuable resources, ecological integrity, and future productivity.1

Other perspectives in how to face the environmental challenges includes the Fair Trade movement and the Organic movement. The Fair Trade Movement is an anti-globalization movement that tries to address social and environmental problems, however, there are complex issues like Free Trade as a movement vs. Free trade as a market.3 These different perspectives take steps to improve the current relationship between food systems and the environment while also dealing with their own controversies.

  1. Weisberg, D. (2003). Environment. In S. H. Katz (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Food and Culture.(Vol. 1, pp. 573-578). New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
  2. Conner, David S. et al. “Social Responsibility and Community Development in Vermont’s Food Business” in Journal of Food Research, [S.l.], v. 4, n. 6, p. p93, nov. 2015. ISSN 1927-0895.
  3. Frye, J. J. (2015). Re-conceptualizing the global Fair Trade movement. Journal of Social Justice, 5, 1-25.

Thought Buffet

Genetically Engineered Food & the Environment
Sustainable Food
How School Food Affects the Environment
Eat Green: Our everyday food choices affect global warming and the environment
Food & Environment Reporting NetworkHow Are Food and the Environment Related?Toward Healthy Food and Farms
Campaign for Seed-Sovereignty
Navdanya – Dr. Vandana Shiva
American Community Gardening Association
ABQ Community Gardens
The Organics Institute