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The Organic Food Chain
What is the political arguments?
Sustainable Schools Programme
Growing organic food uses far
fewer fossil fuel-based fertilisers
and chemical pesticides than those
used in conventional farming, so its
production contributes far less to
climate change, soil erosion and
water shortages as well as having
fewer adverse effects on the
health of growers and consumers.
•But long-distance air and road transport of food – even
food with impeccable organic credentials – is
environmentally damaging (oh dear!).
•Air transport creates twice as much nitrogen oxide as
road transport, and 25 times as much as rail and sea
transport. Despite this, air freighting of food is expected
to double in the next 20 years. Road transport creates 50
times as much carbon dioxide as rail transport for each
ton of food moved. Worse, food that travels long distance
usually needs more packaging.
•At present, at least 70 per cent of the organic food
consumed in Britain is imported – rising to 80 per cent for
fruit and vegetables (most organic eggs and meat is
domestically produced).
•Food which has travelled a shorter distance before it
gets eaten should be fresher and have more nutrients –
and should also benefit consumers’ immune systems.
•Some researchers believe that the dramatic rise in
allergies and autoimmune diseases, particularly among
the urban poor may, in part, be a result of people no
longer eating food which has been produced in their local
•Eating food produced locally enables people’s immune
systems to learn which particles are harmless to the
body. Hay fever, asthma and allergies to certain foods,
for instance, occur when the immune system overreacts
to benign airborne particles such as pollen or components
in food as if they were highly toxic.
fat – I guess
you know what
that is. You find
it in fried
foods, cheese,
margarine and
proteins which
you find in
meat, fish,
beans and stuff
s – sugar is
one and you
find others in
bread, cereals
Where does food come from? How is it made? — Easy.
You know the answer already, don’t you? Food comes from
farms – right?
What do you make of these, for example?
•butylated hydroxytoluene (in some
chips, salted peanuts, breakfast
cereals and many other things)
•calcium disodium ethylene diamine
tetra acetate (in salad dressings and
some drinks)
•sodium L-ascorbate (a form of
vitamin C)
Farming — Farming is a very efficient
way of growing the sort of food people
want to eat, in very large amounts.
Until early last century, all farming was
based on sustainable methods because
there was no choice.
Today , people in poor countries
continue this way of growing food
because they cannot afford the
machinery and chemicals needed for
modern industrial farming.
Industrial farming certainly makes
loads of food but it damages the land,
sea and air. There are alternatives
such as organic farming which is
sustainable. The problem with organic
farming is that the farmers have to be
much more skilled.
They can’t rely on spraying and 'instant' fertilisers and
have to plan their crops in a very different way. This
means more people have jobs and this type of farming
is nature-friendly... but organic food is more expensive.
There is a huge argument about this at the moment.
Modern industrial farmers say that only they can ‘feed
the world’, preferably using genetically engineered
The sustainable farmers say this
is nonsense!
But sustainable farming has to be the future because
industrial farming does so much damage to the world we
all live in and the oil it depends on will run out.
Fishing — Once, people who lived near lakes, rivers and the sea often
depended on fishing for much of their food. Today, most small
fishermen who just caught enough fish for themselves with some left
over to sell locally, have lost their jobs. Why? Because humans always
want more and more of everything.
They’ve built big ships which can catch millions of fish in just a few
days so there aren’t enough left to breed and make baby fish. No baby
fish means no new adult fish… which soon means no fish at all! And
because of the pollution from chemicals from farming and factories –
which gets into the rivers and then the seas – many fish are either not
able to breed or contain so much pollution themselves that they are
not good to eat any more. This is very sad because fish are yummy and
the oily ones are very healthy for people and penguins to eat… or
Some people have found that they can farm fish too. This seems like a
good idea until you find that they too use poisons on the fish to stop
diseases which only start because the fish are kept close together in
tanks or floating net cages in the sea.
Food processing — Even if you buy flour to make your own bread,
that flour is processed. First the wheat grains get ground up in a mill
and then different parts, like the brown outside of the seed, get
separated. Then, if you don’t make your own bread (hardly anyone does
this anymore), the flour is mixed with other ingredients and baked in
an oven to make the loaf you buy in the shop. That’s an example of
simple food processing.
Almost every food you buy in a packet, box or tub is processed in
some way. This is where some problems can start.
Most of the food you eat will have been processed in a factory in some
An fresh orange is not processed – though unless you eat the peel too
(ugh!) you will process it yourself by peeling the skin off. Food
processing used to be done at home but now, people have become
rather lazy – or just too busy - and prefer to have someone else do it
so they can buy and eat right away. This adds to the cost. How many
of the foods you eat come from factories, do you think?
Milk (which is a food) usually gets put in packages after being heated to kill
any bugs (pasteurised). Then it’s cooled and taken in big trucks to
supermarkets and shops. Milk can be made into cheese too.
Skimmed milk has the cream taken off to be sold separately as cream or
butter. Some milk gets made into yoghurt.
Snack foods like chips. There are hundreds. Most of them are made from
potatoes, corn (maize) or other grains with added salt, sugar and fat which
makes them taste good Tinned, frozen or dried (dehydrated) food Breads,
biscuits, crackers Soda drinks (pop, fizzy) like cola and fruit flavours.
Some of these really are foods because they contain nutrients like sugar Meat
– animals are killed in special factories called abattoirs (slaughter houses).
Almost every scrap of them is used for something. For example, their skins
become leather for clothing and shoes, and other stuff that nobody would
much like the look of gets made into sausages and pie fillings. Sugar, this is
made from crushing either sugar beet or sugar cane