Every year UNEP, United Nations Environment Programme, chooses a theme upon which to focus World Environment Day (June 5th), and 2013 is all about our food, and more specifically the food we are wasting. Under the slogan 'Think.Eat.Save', the impact of food waste is being pushed to the forefront of discussion.
Not only are we producing a great deal of our food unsustainably, we are wasting nearly half of it – no less than a total of 1.3 billion tonnes is discarded worldwide every year. We are squandering our most precious resources; water, land, labor and capital, and for what – more greenhouse gas emissions?
World Environment Day celebrates positive environmental action that involves everyone, everywhere. Since 1972, the day has acted as a catalyst for raising awareness about environmental issues, drawing political attention to these issues and inciting action to address them. Its aim is to help all of us recognize our own responsibility and agency in making the changes we want to see, not just for ourselves but for the generations to come.
A great deal needs to change in food production processes as well as consumption patterns and practices to reduce our waste. In developing countries food waste occurs largely as a result of financial, managerial and technical limitations during both the harvest as well as during the storage and distribution periods.
The ‘Global Food Waste Not Want Not’ report found that 21 million tonnes of wheat perished each year in India because of inadequate storage and distribution, which is the equivalent to the entire wheat production of Australia. In wealthier countries, where measures of preserving food are more high tech, the opposite occurs - food waste is created towards the end of the supply chain, and is largely dictated by consumer behavior.
Given that by the end of the century our Earth needs to support three billion people more, it’s high time we tackled our waste, or guaranteeing food security may become an impossible task.
RESET.org had the pleasure of interviewing Urban Leaves, a community empowerment group based in Mumbai which is very conscious of our relationship to food and the importance of sustainable food production practices. In order to improve our health, happiness and the sustainability of our habits they have begun an urban gardening movement.
You may have already read about their inspiring vision for urban food production and the positive outcomes it may have on communities, what their organization has thus far achieved, and the goals they have set for the future. The Urban Leaves team was also able to offer us insights on how we relate to the food we consume, why urban gardening is important and why GMOs are not the way:
The United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) World Environment Day is taking place on June 5th and the theme this year is Think.Eat.Save.. On their website UNEP states that the aim of choosing this theme was to encourage everyone to become more aware of the environmental impact of their food choices, and to empower people make more informed decisions about what they eat. How do you think urban gardening relates to Think.Eat.Save.?
If you ask a modern day city child “Where does our food come from?” the most probable answer that you will get is “The supermarket”. So called modernisation has spoilt us for choice: there are endless varieties of food items available off the shelf today than what was available 20-25 years back. We often forget that the genesis of what we eat has taken place in the soil on the farms. It is very common to forget the role of the grower and the food grown by him [or her].
Urban gardening makes us and our children aware of the origins of what we eat. Seeing the actual cycle of a seed to sapling, sapling to a tree, flowering of trees, flowers to fruits, fruits back to seed makes us aware of all that takes place to grow the food that we consume.
This forces us to stop and THINK about what we EAT and [ask] where does it come from? Overtime this thought process translates into us thinking about how we are really eating. How much are we wasting? How much of the food costs actually go to the poor farmers? So on one side you have the growing air conditioned supermarkets, and on the other hand you see a rise in farmer suicides in India. How much of our food costs bought in our supermarkets go towards the packaging costs, air conditioning and transportation from far off places?
Is it not simple to grow your own food in otherwise wasted spaces receiving abundant sunlight throughout the year? Urban farms provide local, fresh, organic food and provide joy, recreation and health and biodiversity at the same time. Urban Gardening allows us to re-establish the forgotten connection with nature which transforms us making us think in a holistic, more eco-friendly manner.
What do you think the greatest concerns with Genetically Modified Crops (GMOs) are, and do you think Indians are sufficiently aware of the dangers?
Laxmi Devi Kutty one of founding members Urban Leaves and food activist says: We at Urban leaves are completely for agriculture and food free of genetically modified organisms. The methodology we follow for urban farming is based on mimicking the process of nature and we want to grow food naturally.
[In regard to] genetically modified crops we have many serious concerns: the negative effects of GM crops on environment, the adverse impacts on human and animal health, the serious issues surrounding the loss of seed sovereignty which is particularly critical in the Indian context (where small farmers dominate Indian agriculture and agriculture is the source of livelihood for more than 50 percent of the population) and other socio-economic impacts. Therefore, in the interest of safe food, consumer and farmer choice and to protect our biodiversity wealth, we believe that GM crops should not be allowed in India.
To learn more about World Environment Day visit http://www.unep.org/wed/.
If you are wondering how to get your hands (metaphorically) dirty and help clean up the environment, why not take part in our RESET for World Environment Campaign. You can find all the information here, or visit the event page.
Author: Kirsten Zeller/ RESET editorial