Here you can find all our articles aimed at helping food citizens to make fair food choices.
Sustainable Environment as a Human Right
The 10th of December is Human Rights Day. This year marked a special anniversary: the universal declaration of human rights turned 70! The declaration is a key document in order to have a legal base to persecute crimes against humanity, designed to help bring peace and equality to the world. While we still have some way to go to accomplish that, a new threat is already on the horizon. Climate change is threatening human rights in an unprecedented way. This has brought up the necessity to update the human rights declaration to include the right to a healthy enviroment. Threats to environmental defenders In the last years, we could see a rise in the murder of activists who protect land, water and nature. One of the most famous cases was the murder of the indigenous leader and environmental activist Berta Cáceres in 2016. She was brutally assassinated in her home after years of being threatened. Those arrested for her murder are linked to large financial institutions. Still not all of them have been sentenced yet. This is not an isolated case. Around the world and especially Honduras corrupt governments and businesses threaten and murder activists defending their right for land […]
Get stuck into soil!
Soil, that few inches thick layer that covers our Planet, often referred to as mud and dirt, is a living, breathing thing. They say one handful of soil contains more life then there are humans on the Earth. A healthy soil is vital for healthy food. Soil filters and stores water; hosts a quarters of Earth’s biodiversity and has a vital role to play in mitigating and adapting to climate change. Despite all that, soil in under threat. Under threat from intensive agriculture, industrialisation, and urbanisation. Experts predict that at this rate, we have less than 60 years of topsoil left. It takes 1000+ years to form 1 cm of soil…… It’s time to get our hands dirty. We’ve compiled a to do list to help you get stuck into soil; Watch These two short films are great for a quick overview of soil matters & soil solutions. 1. 2. Watch this fantastic, inspiring, night in by the fire kinda film – The Symphony of the Soil 3. Soil is vital to our food nutritional security. The farmers on our Fair Food Finder know this. Working to repair, conserve, protect and build soil for plant, animal and human health. Sit […]
Consumers; Powerful & Powerless
The last 12 months of sales, special offers, all things red signage that’s been calling us all into the temples of consumption, culminates once more into one day of sales to end all sales, Black Friday! Are you ready? Have you attended the commercial church already; played your part as a good consumer? Did you discover the ‘means to happiness’ in there? Or will you wake up feeling likes it’s a Damp Squib Saturday wondering why life just isn’t all at once, perfect? No need to worry, our modern socio-economic world promises redemption, Cyber Monday. Seek again the ‘means to happiness’ from the comfort of your home. Busy Monday?! Fear not though, absolution can be sought throughout December, and for those of us who don’t practice consumerism enough, January Sales aren’t far behind. There are numerous opportunities to be a good consumer. I, the consumer In fact, we don’t have to do much to be good consumers. Josh Pasek, Associate Professor of Communication Studies, at the University of Michigan states we consumers need only act in ‘response to economic incentives’. Our life is about transactions and we good consumers merely hold the product or service provider responsible for ensuring that […]
What is Bioregionalism?
Bioregionalism is a cultural, political, and environmental movement that promotes the recognition and use of naturally occuring bioregions as the basis for culturally and economically defined areas. These bioregions consist of areas which share physical and environmental features, such as topographical characteristics, soil type, watershed boundaries, climate, wildlife, and growing seasons. These environmental components directly influence the way in which humans living in the region interact among themselves and with the environment, and serve as the basis for the designation of their unique ecological region. Because these human, animal, and plant communities can only thrive when they work in tandem, this movement stress the importance of good environmental stewardship and sustainability farming practices that allow all lifeforms in the bioregion to live in balance. Bioregionalism and Environmentalism Similar in many regards to traditional environmental or ecological ideologies, bioregionalist practices differ in that they are proactive in nature and generally seek to promote a balanced, harmonious, and mutually beneficial relationship between human communities and their environment. Unlike more conventional environmental movements, bioregionalism does not portray human culture and industry as quintessentially destructive and harmful to their local environments, nor does it insist that nature is inherently victimized by human activity. Instead, […]
Shifting Diets; What is the substitution effect?
Many of us have seen, read or heard that to save the world we must all follow a vegan diet. In response you’ve most likely seen, read or heard that veganism isn’t the answer. Headlines are there to grab our attention, to entice us to open the link, buy the paper, watch the documentary. Any mention of this topic online can bring out the worst in us. Conversations end up stifled by strong points of view (on both sides). There is very little space left for balance or discussion around what is a sustainable diet. Life is busy and choosing what to eat for yours and the planet’s health can be confusing. Too often we fall fowl of simple narratives. They work in our busy, noisy world. And so we find ourself battling over ‘shifting diets’ one way or the other. Everyone has an opinion on the matter. But I’m not here to give you mine. I hope instead to broaden the conversation enough that instead of having to choose between two polar ends, we can find a middle that’s fair, to people and place. SHEP’s sub’s bench SHEP is shorthand for sustainable, healthy eating patterns. We have some definitions […]
What Do We Exactly Mean When We Say Food is Ethical?
By definition, the word “ethics” has a pretty straight-forward meaning. Essentially, it is a series of moral principles that govern an individual’s behaviors and actions. It acts as a dividing line between what’s considered “right” and “wrong.” Ethics applies to many areas of life. But one of its more recent applications is in the food industry. Combining the words “ethics” and “food” seems like it should be simple, but it’s in fact a complex topic that’s the subject of much debate. Ultimately, food ethics encompasses ethics in a variety of areas, including animal ethics, environmental ethics, and ethics related to food industry employment and food distribution. What is considered “right” and “wrong” in these areas varies widely based on personal beliefs, geographical location, and societal norms. Animal Ethics One area that influences the topic of food ethics is animal ethics. The term “animal ethics” is one that’s primarily used in academia to describe the relationship between humans and non-human animals. This relationship is an ideal model of how animals should be treated, which is with respect, kindness, and consideration. But the proper treatment for animals, especially animals designed for human consumption, is seen through many different lenses. Some people (and […]
Are we facing a potato crisis?
At my last CSA veg pickup, I overheard a conversation about the looming potato shortage due to the drought conditions during this summer. After digging a bit deeper it seems like the fears are founded on a real basis. Potato is a thirsty crop which needs large amounts of water during its growth phase. As we experienced a wonderful summer it hit the potato at a crucial time in its growth. With the consequence of reduced harvest quantities and smaller crops. I found various articles dealing with the problem, in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, France, the UK and Ireland. Especially crisp and chips producers who rely on large potato sizes are already ringing the alarm bells. They now consider using smaller crops for their processed products. Which could result in shorter chips at higher prices. Retailers are also considering increasing the availability of “wonky potatoes”. This is good news when it comes to food waste. In times of shortage it seems we find back to our common sense that we should be less wasteful and more appreciative of what we have. We need more diverse diets This year’s drought and the long winter beforehand which shortened the growing season has […]
Simple ways to reduce your plastic waste footprint
Plastic waste represents one of the major pollution issues on earth today. Especially marine wildlife suffers from our over-consumption of disposable plastic items and packaging. Researchers estimate that 90% of seabirds around the world are eating plastic, this number is said to increase to 100% in the next decade. Many animals die dreadfully due to the consequences of plastic ingestion. Sharp plastic parts perforate their guts and young birds small stomachs can’t hold food as they are filled up with plastic pieces. But also other animals are affected, including humans. The fish on our plates is increasingly contaminated with plastic and it’s uncertain which effect it has on our health. By 2050 it’s said that there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. Nonetheless, if this shocking figure will turn out to be true or not, we now need to act collectively to reduce the amount of plastic we use and dispose of. Foodture wants to help Food Citizens to make better food buying decisions and shows you 6 simple ways how you can start reducing plastic waste when grocery shopping. Of course our combined efforts can’t stop here, but if you’re thinking to change your habits […]
Why should we buy food from fair food farmers?
Fair food fulfils our need for healthy, nutritious, affordable food without compromising the health of our planet or the livelihood of farmers; ensuring that future generations will be able to feed themselves in the same way. That’s why here at foodture we help you to find Fair Food farmers in Ireland! There are many reasons why we should buy food from farmers who farm in harmony with nature: 1. Shorter transport routes Transportation based on fossil fuel needs to be reduced as we transition to a low carbon future. Citizens can contribute to reduce green-house gases from this sector by buying local, sustainably produced food. Buying directly from a local fair food farmer means that the produce still has it’s full nutrients and flavour, which get lost through long transport routes and cooling chains. It also means that it’s not wrapped in harmful plastic packaging, reducing food and plastic waste. 2. Cooking in season Reducing the amount of processed food on our tables has tremendous benefits for our health and the environment. We learn to reconnect to the seasons and regain skills in cooking and preserving. Many would argue that there is no time for cooking but once we get […]
World Environment Day: Beating plastic pollution & the food supply chain
Since it began in 1974, World Environment Day is an UN initiative that encourages worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. This year’s theme is beating plastic pollution. Plastic is everywhere. The keyboard I’m typing on, the tea bag used to make my tea, the carton that contained the milk, the cover on my phone, the polyester in my t-shirt, the pen I used to take notes, most likely in the fish I’ll eat this evening, even in the air I breathe! We are undoubtedly, wallowing in our own waste. Plastic is killing our environment and in turn us. No doubt you’ve seen photos circling online of whales washing up on beaches with stomachs full of plastics. Earlier this year, researchers from NUI Galway found that over 70% of deep water fish have ingested plastics. When fish eat plastics, it enters our food chains and eventually us. Worryingly, plastics contain endocrine disruptors, which can be carcinogenic. The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” fits well here. What does not end up in the ocean, goes to landfill, or another country for them to deal with or incinerated. As one of our Food Citizens said “rubbish […]
The Sitka squeezed middle; who will farm and where in the future?
THE LONG READ: This past week we’ve seen concerns resurface on the continued expansion of commercial Sitka forests in Ireland. We’ve heard many talk of the pressures felt and placed on farmers of “marginal ground” to plant forestry. Non-native Sitka spruce continues to dominate and in most cases at the expense of what is referred to as HNV (high-nature-value) Farmland. A unique landscape, one underlying factor in its creation is how it has been farmed and grazed over generations. Mick’s farm is one of these extensive farms. The scramble continues Firstly, let’s be clear, no-one is against afforestation. We believe/ similar to other environmental, farming and community groups; it’s about creating a policy of afforestation that sees the right trees, in the right places. That could mean native trees in all places, incorporated into farmland. Serving the needs of both food production and carbon sequestration. It doesn’t have to be farming to the east, forestry to the west. Nature is diverse; our farm landscapes should be too. We need diverse, species rich, landscapes that aid not hinder biodiversity. Wide expansive mono-ryegrass fields, with overly-trimmed ‘hedges’ and blanket commercial forestry do not aid farming, the environment or what it’s all about, […]
The beast from the east has blown it wide open…
Often when we hear or think of food security we think of food shortages, rising populations, political instability, natural disasters, the inability to farm under extreme weather conditions all in some far flung place. A shortage of food on Irish shelves? Never! A run on the basics in case we can’t get to the supermarket? Looting on the streets?! Not at all! How mistaken were we…. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link… For some time now, a few have raised the issue of food security on the island of Ireland. It often falls on deaf ears. How could Ireland, with the agri-food sector the back-bone of its economy fall victim to issues of food security? An extended snow-day or two has shown us it can. Ironic, given only last September Ireland topped the list of most food secure nations. Today, our food system has never produced so much food, traveled so far and been so efficient at it. Until there’s a break in the chain. The last few days have highlighted yet another major flaw in our food-system, its inability to respond effectively in a crisis. We have succumbed to being at the mercy of long, […]
Is your bacon and egg sandwich ethical, fair?
Earlier this year, RTE gave us a sneak peak into How Ireland Eats. What it didn’t ask was, how Ireland sources what it eats? So we eat 1 million rashers a day? Despite RTE showing the wonderful, caring Peter Whelan from The Whole Hogg, this is not how the bulk of those 1 million rashers were produced. Nor is the life of the hens who produce the 2 millions eggs a day we eat much better. When it comes to thinking about the environmental, health and ethical impacts of food, how it was produced is key. We tend to get sucked into believing that if its local, its good. But the word or label local on food actually tells us very little about the production method. Food is local when its produced within 50km of you. However, in many cases, local has just come to mean Irish, or at least in some way produced here. Quality refers to traceability, water, feed, welfare and post production health/safety standards. But it still doesn’t tell us fully, HOW the animal was raised. Farm or Factory? So, that bacon and egg sandwich you ate, was it ethically raised? Did the pig and chicken get […]
Food-Futures: Farm to Table Sourcing
Every month we decide on a topic to cover in depth, this being our first month in our new home at the Fair Food Finder site, we were going to cover the issues in agriculture and food – where do we start…. Swamped by the issues we face ?!? And then we came across a word (one for the glossary folks!) ‘solutionaries’ and that reminded us of once reading about “fair food solutionaries” (thanks Oran B. Hesterman). So we thought why not post a short piece about our overarching goal at foodture – Rejuvenating Farm to Table Sourcing What does that mean? As food citizens (we don’t use the word consumers around here, we are so much more than mere consumers!) and as a ‘farmer’ (that would be I, Sinéad, not by myself mind you, we’re a duo at Roc na Seamair Farm) – we have experienced both ends of the same problem; where do you get the best food at a price that’s accessible but also supports the livelihoods of the best food producers so we can continue to get their produce into the future? Its complicated! You see food, farming, the environment, climate change and farming livelihoods is […]
SAQ’s: What is local food?
SAQ’s; otherwise known as should ask questions, help to inform our buying choices choices. We believe in starting a conversation that matters and we want you to continue that conversation. So here are our suggested SAQ’s about local food – what does local food mean to you, whats important about local food? 21 Questions.. An Irish flag on a product must mean its local? Not exactly…look closer at the label – locally produced or locally packaged? What about the name? Egan’s potatoes, that being the French Egans? What about the product that’s produced by a local food producer, locally made, locally baked, locally cooked. But where did they get the ingredients? Direct from the one source or from a place that sources from numerous ‘local’ producers? How then does each local producer source and the supplier they use source and so on and on and on…. Do we place equal value on the local ‘free range’ ethically raised chicken (a label issue for another article, but in this instance we mean the birds that see the light of day & get more than a mere extra square foot!) and the local factory born, fed-fast, bred-fast and slaughtered chicken? The carrot […]
Supporting the ‘small but mighty’ farmers
We’ve often heard that if it wasn’t for the ‘Green Revolution’ of the 1960’s that we couldn’t sustain the global population. International institutions like CGIAR helped develop and streamline high yielding varieties of maize, wheat and rice. Along with the applications of synthetic fertilizers, irrigation and pesticides, yields between 1960 – 2000 increased from 30% for some to 200%. Real food prices declined by 35% to 65%. These yields prevented hunger for many and the conversion of 1000’s of hectares of land for agri-purposes. Since the food price hikes in 2008 the ‘wicked problem’ in agriculture, have come to the forefront of debates. A ‘wicked problem’ is one that seems unsolvable. In this case its the need to produce more food for more people, without converting more land. All under a changing climate and degraded environment. While also in competition with other sectors for resources, Solutions to feeding a growing population tend to focus on production efficiencies. These include technological fixes in the use of inputs, plant and animal genetics and closing the yield gap. Demand side efficiencies such as dietary change are beginning to get some traction. Yet the message is confused, often oversimplified and “way to much of a […]
The scramble for ‘marginal’ land
Under Food Wise 2025, the government’s strategy for the agri-food sector, forested land is set to increase from 10% land cover to 17%. Despite consistent criticisms of Food Wise 2025. It’s backers (the government, lobby interests and industry experts who helped draft it) push the point that increasing forested land can be used as a tool for climate change mitigation. Forestry and global food security have become the two greatest ‘go-to-buzzwords/tools’ to use in response to any questioning of the current centralised market power, export orientated, commodity specialisation focus of Irish agriculture. An agri-business regime that’s creating bigger farms – less farmers, environmental damage, declining farm incomes, larger herd numbers, less diversity in farming and as such the food we produce. Leaving us overwhelmingly reliant on imports and ignoring the fact that we need to produce better, but less beef & dairy into the future if we are stay within the global carbon budget. A scramble aided by policy… The neoliberal expansionist agenda in Irish agriculture places immense pressure on small ‘marginal land’ farms like Mick’s (referred to as ‘marginal’ because it’s deemed unsuitable for industrialisation). Under a globalised, industrialised ‘world farm’, smaller holdings find themselves struggling to get by. […]
Can food be ‘fair’?
Our meeting with activist chef Aoife Allen at the Fumbally was truly inspiring and reminded us of the implications of our food choices beyond our health and the environment. Today, food has also become an issue of social justice, human rights violations and uncovering global inequalities. The globalization of food on the one side enables us to enjoy food that grows in different climates but, on the other side is associated with various externalities impacting farmers and workers in the global south. It can lead to countries over-concentrating on producing only ‘the high value’ goods that we crave in the developed world. The end result being an economy overly dependent on a few commodities, vulnerable to price fluctuations and an environment dominated by mono-crops, lacking in biodiversity, consequently less resilient to climate change and in many cases gambling with long-term food security. So why over focus on producing one food ‘commodity’? Trading in high value commodities such as coffee, cacao, sugar, bananas, avocados, certain seafood and other products that are “trending”, is for many developing economies a pathway out of poverty. Unfortunately, food markets are often controlled by few commodity traders who control the prices. What’s more, small farmers lack […]
Of Snipes and Sitka Spruce: Agriculture’s Impact on Ireland’s Biodiversity
Biodiversity: it’s become something of a buzz word in recent times. In simplest terms, it refers to the variety of life. Biodiversity is important because the more diverse a system or population is, the more resilient it will be to potential disruptions. And the resilience of species populations and ecosystems is vital for their survival as our planet begins to feel the vast and destructive power of global climate change. Biodiversity is important for humans too: the more diverse an ecosystem is, the more ecosystem services it can provide, which include: regulating air and water quality, erosion control, pollination, the provisioning of food, raw materials, and medicinal resources, as well as improving our mental and physical health. But around the world, biodiversity is being threatened. In Europe, only 23% of species and 16% of habitats under EU directives are in good health. In Ireland, the situation is even more dire. As a country with a long history of land use change, primarily due to agriculture, only 1% of Ireland’s native forest cover was left at the turn of the 20th century. This means that Ireland’s native species were squeezed into smaller and smaller areas, if they survived at all, leading to […]
WWOOFing, farm incomes and the true price of food
WWOOF: World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms is a non-profit organization connecting volunteer workers to organic farms around the globe. Volunteers receive accommodation and food in return for 4-6 hours of work per day. The idea was born in 1971 when Sue Coppard started a small initiative to bring London city dwellers to help out on farms on weekends helping them to reconnect to the natural world. It slowly evolved into the large worldwide movement it is today, with the majority of host farms being located in Australia (2600 hosts) accounting for 39.9% of the world’s organic farmland. Worldwide only 1% of arable land is currently in organic use. In Ireland (489 hosts) we use 1.76% of our arable land for growing organics. WWOOF is dedicated to supporting the organic movement. Many of the volunteers that participate in exchanges gain valuable skills and a newfound understanding of the work required to produce healthy food. Above all, volunteers take home memorable experiences of working together and building lasting relationships with like minded people from around the globe. WWOOFing can also be understood as a form of sustainable or transformational tourism, where the visitor plays an active role in engaging with the […]
What is a sustainable diet?
According to the FAO (Food & Agriculture of the United Nations), a sustainable diet are those “diets with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations; are protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy; while optimizing natural and human resources” Defining a sustainable diet remains a complex and contentious issue. Should equal weight be given to economic, nutrition and environmental concerns? Should the diet be defined by nutritional needs first and environmental second? Given current levels of environmental degradation, should the sustainable diet be framed by environmental concerns firstly; without a healthy environment can nutritious food be grown? The term sustainable itself continues to be interpreted differently depending on one’s perspective. Nevertheless, sustainability is understood to encompass three dimensions, environment, society and economic; the three pillars of sustainability. In the context of sustainable diets, nutritional quality, cultural acceptance and affordability/accessibility must also be considered. A widely understood concept of sustainability is the need to protect and use resources in a way now that will not impact the ability of future generations to live sufficiently. In the context of […]
Irish agriculture and carbon neutrality
In Ireland, agriculture accounts for 32% of all GHG emissions. The sector is dominated by livestock production with enteric fermentation accounting for 47% of this, manure management at 27% and nitrogen application to agricultural soils accounts for a further 22%. A further 5% of agriculture’s emissions is attributed to fossil fuel combustion. The EPA has stated that Ireland is unlikely to meet its emission targets in the non-Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) Sector, reaching only 6-11% of the 20% target. Agriculture is projected to rise by 6-7%, accounting for almost half (47%) of all non-ETS sector emissions by 2020. Negotiations are underway to set GHG reduction target for the 2021-2030 period, with suggestions ranging from 30% to 40% reductions on 2005 levels. With Irish agriculture already failing to meet GHG reduction targets, the future prospects of these targets increasing, creating a bigger emissions gap, 200million to 600milion annual fine estimates for non-compliance on GHG reduction, all under a national framework to increase agriculture production… means the focus for government is in achieving carbon neutrality in Irish agriculture. The concept of carbon neutral agriculture is often interchangeable with zero-net emissions and decarbonisation within an economy or economic sector. Carbon neutrality, […]
The interconnections between agriculture, food and climate change
“to eat is an agricultural act” – Wendell Berry Concerns around climate change, agriculture and food nutritional security are interlinked and issues in one cannot be resolved without considering the others. Climate change impacts agriculture and consequently food nutritional security. Moreover, agriculture impacts climate change, contributing 35% of anthropogenic CO2 thereby constraining the ability of agriculture to meet projected demand to 2050. Agricultural production finds itself under increasing pressure to meet the food demands of a growing population as well as to reduce its impact on the landscape, environment and climate. The convergence of a rising world population, expected to surpass 9 billion by 2050, and the onset of climate change means humanity is facing perhaps its greatest challenge. Food production both relies on and alters the very biological and material world on which it relies. Agriculture is responsible for 47% of total anthropogenic methane emissions and 58% of nitrous oxide. Moreover, livestock production is the largest contributor to agriculture’s carbon footprint, estimated to account for 14.5% of anthropogenic emissions, with animal feed production/processing and enteric fermentation accounting for 45% and 39% respectively. Of all the land used for agriculture, 80% is given over to livestock production and is linked […]