11. All states shall incorporate environmental considerations in developing national dietary food guides

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A) Rapporteur: Danny Harvey

A continuous, increasing shift to plant-based diets over time would confer multiple environmental and health benefits, and is a pre-requisite to longterm sustainability, but can only be expected to occur as part of a broader and gradual process of social and environmental enlightenment. Incorporation of environmental consideration in national dietary food guides would lead to a greater emphasis on plant-based foods, in turn influencing dietary decisions and contributing to this long term transition.

B) Rapporteur: Metta Spencer

National food guides are a current manifestation of a discussion that has gone on since prehistoric times, for almost all of us hold strong convictions about what to eat. (The Greek geometer Pythagoras admonished his followers never to eat beans.) For a potentially helpful food guide, see the 2019 Canadian list(1), which recommends: “Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, whole grain foods and protein foods. Choose protein foods that come from plants more often.”

This official promotion of plant foods reflects the well-founded new emphasis on the effects of dietary choices on the environment. Such a concise list is all the advice that most people need in order to make responsible food choices. If, however, you want to look more deeply into the grounds for choosing particular foods, you will find a complex set of considerations, not all of which yield compatible recommendations.

Dietary choices have far-reaching impacts on our physical and ecological environment, health, economy, cultural traditions and the use of water, energy, and land. Much depends on the technologies that are used to produce the food and bring it to the dinner table. Fortunately, greater efficiencies are being invented that can enable most producers to conserve all these resources. For example, where a farm’s soil is being blown or washed away, or where its waterways are being polluted and eutrophying from the use of chemical fertilizers, the farmers can simply adopt such innovations as no-till agriculture, biochar, composts, and other organic farming practices. Food producers and retailers can adopt numerous simple, achievable solutions at many phases in the supply chain of their product.

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Footnotes for this article can be seen at the Footnotes 2 page on this website (link will open in a new page).

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Fruit Walls: The Centuries old Technology

Fruit walls were a pre-greenhouse technology used for several centuries (beginning in the 1600s) to grow food in areas where the climate would not otherwise support it. The article also point out how energy intensive agricultural greenhouses are. This was published in the website of Low Tech Magazine, which is solar powered. The site’s servers are powered by solar panels and sometimes goes offline while it needs to recharge.

[Article excerpt here, but check out the original article for its interesting photos and explanations!]

“We are being told to eat local and seasonal food, either because other crops have been tranported over long distances, or because they are grown in energy-intensive greenhouses. But it wasn’t always like that. From the sixteenth to the twentieth century, urban farmers grew Mediterranean fruits and vegetables as far north as England and the Netherlands, using only renewable energy.

These crops were grown surrounded by massive “fruit walls”, which stored the heat from the sun and released it at night, creating a microclimate that could increase the temperature by more than 10°C (18°F). Later, greenhouses built against the fruit walls further improved yields from solar energy alone.

It was only at the very end of the nineteenth century that the greenhouse turned into a fully glazed and artificially heated building where heat is lost almost instantaneously — the complete opposite of the technology it evolved from.

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Canadian Cacti: Let’s eat ’em!

Did you know that Canada has several native cacti species? These are all in the Opuntia family of cacti – commonly called prickly pears. Opuntia (prickly pears) are more commonly found in Latin America, Mexico, and the Southwestern USA – though grow throughout the Americas. Indigenous and Latin American peoples have used the species for centuries as sources of dyes, fibers, and food. One common cuisine produced from Opuntia (prickly pears) are Nopales – which are grilled cacti pad. Thornless varieties or cacti pads with the thorns (glochids) removed are preferred for culinary applications. Prior to colonization, cacti were only native to the Americas.

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I cannot believe Canada even has Cacti, it’s so cold here.

Are these cacti endangered? I’ve never seen them. Where do they grow in Canada?

How is fish farming coming along? Is there any way to do that sustainably and without using antibiotics to prevent fish diseases? It seems to me that ought to be a big solution.

I agree. And I too haven’t heard anything about it lately. Have any of you folks?

I’ve heard that it’s just not at all sustainable. The fish are too close together- if one get’s sick, they all get sick so they always use antibiotics- plus, these fish just bring disease to fish in the wild too.

Solar panel farm grows 17,000 tons of food without soil, pesticides, fossil fuels or groundwater

A new agricultural technique may have just solved the problem of growing food in some of the world’s most inhospitable places – locations that don’t currently support traditional agriculture.

In addition, the technique can save what are clearly finite resources from extinction, something all of us should clearly favor.

As reported by Natural Blaze, as the world’s population grows, so too does its demand for food. Right now, activist organizations are battling the spread of the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which have become prevalent in modern agriculture, despite the dangers they pose to our health.

The primary argument for GMO makers like Monsanto and backers in industry and government is that they are necessary because the world is running out of resources, and GMO crops are a better way to boost yields (which is not true, actually). On first hearing it, this argument might sound cogent and believable; after all, it’s “science” and scientists aren’t trying to harm us.

Technology to make agriculture sustainable and environmentally clean

But digging deeper into the impact of GMO crops and the herbicides used to make them most effective, demonstrates well that chemical farming is what’s doing real harm to finite land and soil resources.
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Beware of Poisonous Pesticides on your Food

In the late nineteenth through mid-twentieth century, the United States (among other nations) used arsenic and lead based pesticides in agricultural contexts. Arsenic was additionally used to make green paint at this time. I wonder what the legacy of this trend is on environmental health. Could this be impacting bees and/or human health? It is unclear to me how long the compounds stay in the soil – though even the subsequent generations of pesticide chemicals were toxic too.

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China allegedly continued using arsenic-based pesticides until the early 2000s.

Poisoning has a long history

“By the 1920s, U.S. fruit growers were plastering on lead arsenate in such amounts that they were starting to poison their customers. In 1919, the Boston Health Department destroyed arsenic contaminated apples because people were getting sick. The follow year, it had to do it again. In 1919, California health officials discovered with alarm that arsenic residues tended to stick to fruit, meaning the poison was hard to remove.

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How do the big corporate powers get to damage the environment this way?

Pesticides in our Food

Nutrition in the South Pacific

Environmental considerations is a rather broad category in this circumstance. I am particularly curious around this in relation to remote areas – such as the South Pacific states. A number of these areas have exceptionally poor nutrition statistics, with high rates of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, etc.

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Got milk? Not so much. Health Canada’s new food guide drops ‘milk and alternatives’ and favours plant-based protein
Sharon Kirkey
January 22, 2019
Canada’s new food guide, the first update in more than a decade, recommends fruits and vegetables make up half our plates at any meal. . . Drink water. Go light on the animal products. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Fruit juice is liquid sugar, not fruit. Avoid processed foods. Limit booze.. . .

Are we still supposed to eat eggs? They are animal protein, but they don’t create as much greenhouse gas as beef, for example.

Howard, we should ask a vegan. They are presumably setting the standards for the rest of us to follow. I think Bill Clinton is a vegan now, isn’t he? Do vegans eat eggs?

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What’s the future of meat? This vegetarian meal looks delicious but where’s the protein?