Monday, 19 March 2012

The case for sustainable agriculture

You can lead a better, healthier life and support sustainable agriculture at the same time!

by Josefine Ridderstrale

Sustainable agriculture might seem an uninteresting topic at first, especially if you are a happy urbanite not having to grow your own food. However, just making a few different selections at your local supermarket can change the way food is produced! Sounds easy? There are many more ways to help make food production sustainable.

It is getting difficult to keep growing the plants and crops we need: certain farming methods, including where we grow which crops, how much water and pesticides we use, and other practices can drain many resources. Organic farming is now a popular topic and it is one significant area for making a difference since consumers now have the choice to buy organic produce. Organically produced food helps support a sustainable and “clean” agriculture as organic farming does not use dangerous or poisonous chemicals. Your health will thank you for this!

But there’s more: you can also buy fruit, vegetables and other produce made locally, thereby supporting the farmers in your area. Sometimes easily forgotten, small-scale production can be as important as larger producers with a main advantage being that farming methods can be tailored to be more organic and take less of a toll on the land and water systems. Buying local also means helping to reduce pollution from transportation as local produce does not need to travel over long distances.

Enjoying what is in season is another way to keep our food produced in ways that do not harm the environment—after all, it is the environment that supports food production to begin with. Eating according to what is in season might not only inspire you to try new recipes, it will also support your local economy. And you avoid paying a higher price for scarce food or contributing to the long transportation of those out-of-season products. Another advantage is that food grown in its right season usually tastes better, fresher, and is more nutritious! January is the month of beetroot, leeks and apples. And we will also have something to look forward to when summer comes around. How about fresh, sweet strawberries, ripe, red tomatoes and crispy green lettuce?

Want to know just what you are eating? Check the labels in order to avoid harmful substances, both for you and the environment. And get familiar with labels certifying sustainable sources of food. For example, you may have seen the well-known certification label for sustainable fishing by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), and there are many others. The European Union has its own organic labeling while Germany’s is Bio and France has the AB (Agriculture Biologique). Find yours and join in!

You can also ask for organic and local foods in your supermarket and at restaurants to encourage change in these sectors and promote a more sustainable choice. The simple economic rule is that increased demand will push down the prices which positively affect you as a consumer.

Grow your own food. No money, energy or transportation wasted! Not using your car to go shopping is a plus for both the environment and your food.

Suggestions? Help us “spread the word” on simple changes we can all make to support a sustainable future. Inform your network, and don't forget your children. Educating them at an early stage will give them good habits from the start; they are, after all, major beneficiaries of our efforts.

Learn more about supporting sustainable agriculture:

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