Local Organic Food

Posted: February 21, 2017

Organic food production refers to a production system designed to take into consideration conditions unique to a particular site by utilizing practices that enable cycling of resources, encouraging ecological balance and conservation of biodiversity (Hughner et al., 2007). Organic farming practices are meant to allow soil and water retention and decrease pollution. For example, using natural fertilizers to give the ground and plants nutrients, using crop rotation and mulch to control weeds. The popularity of organic food has increased over the years. People are making an effort to buy food that has been produced, stored and provided without adding manufactured fertilizers and chemicals. Natural foods are not necessarily organic foods. Additionally, all-natural, free-range, or hormone-free are not organic food. For food to be labeled organic, it has to have been grown and processed by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic standards (Hughner et al., 2007). Local food is food products that travel a distance of fewer than 400 miles from production location or is within the state of production. Some people consider food produced within a hundred mile radius as local (Feenstra, 1997). Selling of local foods is in several places such as farmers markets, roadside stands, Pick-your-own (PYO) farm operations, Farm to School programs, community supported agriculture, and food hubs that dispense food to eateries, and hotels. Genetically modified foods (GMOs) refer to crop plants made for human consumption using the latest molecular biology techniques (Frewer et al., 2003).

Local food advocates believe that growing food closer to home assists in avoiding global warming since it needs fewer fossil fuels to transport and produces less greenhouse gas emission compared to food produced conventionally (Feenstra, 1997). In the United States of America, food produced conventionally travels 1500 miles to the consumer. Conventional food distribution is responsible for between 5 and 17 times more carbon dioxide produced than local and regionally produced food (Coley et al., 2009). Although, the effects of food production on climate depends on both the distance moves and production methods.

When the production, transportation and delivery of food are analyzed, it is evident that transportation results in just 7% of food’s greenhouse gas emissions and delivery to consumers causing just four percent. Additionally, emissions as a result of transportation differ depending on how transportation modes for example railway and water modes of transportation produce less emission compared to air and road modes of transportation. Food production generates 83% of emissions (Feenstra, 1997). It also depends on the method used in the field, for example, heavy fertilization and widespread plowing or rigorous usage of irrigation and pesticides. Food’s climate effects are mostly because of greenhouse gas emissions that are not carbon dioxides like nitrous oxide and methane emissions. Nitrous oxide, which is more potent than carbon dioxide, is from nitrogen fertilizers and some soil and manure management techniques. Methane, also more powerful than carbon dioxide, is from the digestive process of ruminants like cows and sheep and manure management. Production of meat and dairy causes emissions through the growing of grains meant to feed the cows. Red meat causes around 150% more greenhouse gas emissions compared to chicken or fish (Feenstra, 1997).

Therefore, purchasing local food might under the best conditions minimize the average consumer’s greenhouse gas emissions by a minimal 4 to 5% (Feenstra, 1997). Eating chicken, fish, eggs, and vegetables rather than red meat and dairy products helps reduce greenhouse gas compared to a diet grounded entirely on food produced locally. Eating in-season, organic and less processed foods can contribute to minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. There has been a 9.6% increase in the National Farmers Market Directory as documented in the USDA (Feenstra, 1997).

Small and local farms have several economic, social and environmental advantages. They enable utilizing of local land for food productions and keeping local money within the community. It helps reduce cost compared to conventionally produced food. Also, local food production helps build community relationships. It helps minimize food safety risks since long-distance food has a higher potential of getting tainted during its journey to the consumers. Additionally, small farms can quickly implement practices that are environmentally friendly. Also, small farms reconstruct insect and crop variety, use fewer pesticides, and improve the soil with cover crops among many other benefits. Small farmers can make money by making the middle man unnecessary.

Local food helps maintain nutrient cycling at a local level compared to conventional agriculture which messes up with the nutrient balance (Coley et al., 2009). For instance, nitrogen and phosphorous, essential for plant growth, can be found in fertilizer and agricultural waste. In the Midwest phosphorus found in fertilized grain is shipped to the northeast for dairy cow feed while the cow manure helps provide nutrients in the fields. The extra phosphorus runs off into streams, lakes and eventually the ocean. The surplus may cause an eutrophication which is water pollution that involves the growth of algae that die and thus create a dead zone that doesn’t allow anything else to grow. All this can be prevented by cycling nutrients locally.

For an extended period now there has been a notable rise in population, global warming, and significant loss of biodiversity resulting in terrible effects on the environment. Feeding the population is getting harder by the day. There have to be profound changes in production, distribution, and stability of foods. Regrettably, land for farming and population is unevenly distributed. Additionally, reduced the quality of land because of erosion, less renewable resources, less water, and reduced people working on the ground. To conserve the forest, habitats, and biodiversity it is important to make sure food needs to originate from land being used to grow the crop. A possible solution for this problem is the use of GMOs. Farm owners make use of genetically modified crops to progress their plants to keep them alive and increase output. Also, GMOs are useful in harsh areas that suffer from drought, have bad soil, and reduced fertilizer and herbicide environs. The plants have been altered in laboratories to improve preferred characteristics like improved resistance to herbicides or nutritional content. The benefit of using genetic engineering is that achieving desired characteristics very fast and accurate.

People especially local crop enthusiasts have several misconceptions about GMOs. Genetically modified crops results in reduced pesticide usage depending on crop and new trait. Studies are still underway to identify any effects of genetically modified foods to the environment (Frewer et al., 2003). It is important to understand that local foods are not necessarily “green” (Delingpole, 2010). GMOs are the most efficient way to feed large populations efficiently. There is currently no evidence of dangers of genetically modified foods. Therefore, local crop enthusiasts should not stand in the way of people who have no problem using science to find more efficient ways to feed the public. Additionally, when comparing local foods to genetically modified foods show that both are not organic.

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