Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Eating oil

The productivity of modern industrial agriculture is a phenomenal technological achievement. The amount of food produced per unit of arable land has increased dramatically over the past 40 years. But, this productivity comes at a cost. Current high yield methods are resource intensive and are completely dependent on substantial inputs of fossil fuel. in a 2008 article in the New York Time Magazine author and journalist Michael Pollan puts it bluntly
"When we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gasses."

Carbon is released into the atmosphere during multiple steps of the modern industrial food production process. CO2 sources include:

  • Release of carbon during the clearing and tilling of land
  • Production of synthetic fertilizers
  • Use of petroleum based pesticides
  • Energy consumed during the transformation of farm products into the highly processed products that makes up a large fraction of the modern american diet
  • Long distance transportation of food from farmer to consumer
  • and the fuel used by heavy farm equipment at multiple stages of the process

In fact, food production is second only to transportation for its relative impact on our carbon footprint. As a result, chainging our food consumption habits will help mitigate the impacts of climate change.