Agriculture is what feeds the world. But, when this is done irresponsibly, it can destroy our planet. That is why our food choices are also very important; the kinds of food we put on our plates have significant effects on the environment. Choosing meat over fruit and vegetables, for instance, can negatively affect the environment.
According to a UN report, raising cattle produces more greenhouse gases than driving cars. Furthermore, a 2009 report by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang of the World Bank shows that animal agriculture contributed to 51% of greenhouse gas emissions. This is in part brought about by the large amounts of methane cows produce from their digestive process. Methane gas from livestock is 25 to 100 times more harmful than carbon dioxide from vehicles. This is not just about the methane gas from livestock, though. Livestock also brings about deforestation. Since the 1970’s, 20 percent of the Amazon rainforests has been destroyed, and 80 percent of this cleared land is taken over by livestock. Additionally, livestock produce 130 times more waste than the entire human population. Also, do you know that a pound of beef uses up 5,000 gallons of water? This water is used for the grain and hay that the cow consumes to produce that one pound of beef.
The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division reported that the earth’s human population has increased by 50 percent since 1980. As a result, more fertiliser is used to grow more corn to feed to the cows, pigs, or chickens that people eventually consume. Yet, they do not know how much it is affecting the environment.
Fertiliser is primarily nitrogen, and runaway nitrogen contaminates groundwater, suffocates lakes and estuaries, and even contributes to global warming. Furthermore, the more nitrogen you dump into the ocean from land, the more algae and bacteria use up oxygen to the point that the oxygen in the water falls to zero. And, this poses a problem because fish need oxygen. Consequently, they die.
GMOs are organisms whose DNA has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally. There are two types of GMOs. One type is the pesticide producers which kill insects, while the other type is the herbicide resisters, which are immune to weed killer. However, insects or wind carry GMO pollen for great distances, contaminating non-GMO crops. Their DNA gets altered as well, so they acquire GMO traits, such as Roundup Resistance.
A farm can be contaminated by either a GMO seed or pollen. Insects or wind carry GMO pollen for miles, spreading it to non-GMO crops. Their DNA is altered, giving them GMO traits like Roundup resistance; Roundup is the most widely used herbicide in the world, and GMO resistance is taking place all over the world.
Another issue that modernisation of agriculture poses is loss of crop diversity, which can also mean the loss of the traits that could be vital to saving a crop from pests, diseases, or changing climate. And, as we lose this diversity, our survival on this planet is threatened. Ironically, the reason of the chemical companies’ production of GMO is to feed the world, yet it can be also be the reason why our survival here on the planet is compromised.
Environment-friendly Food Choices
So how do you see to it that your food choices are not contributing to the degradation of the environment? One step you can take now is to reduce if not totally eliminate meat from your diet. Not only you are helping the environment, but you are boosting your personal health as well.