World Food Day
Biovision aims to take advantage of World Food Day on 16th October to increase the public’s awareness of “Zero Hunger” as a topic. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), more than 820 million people worldwide are still facing hunger (2017 figures). The FAO states that the number of people going hungry was falling until 2015, but that the level has increased significantly once again over the past few years. Biovision has worked since 1998 in Africa – where 232 million people continue to be affected by hunger to this day.
«Zero hunger» lies at the very centre of Biovision’s activities. Our vision is for a world where there is plenty of healthy food for everybody, produced by healthy people in a healthy environment. In order to achieve this aim, we direct all our projects in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
We regard Sustainable Development Goal No. 2, «Zero hunger» as a fixed focus of our work around our core topic of «Food security and ecological agriculture». In this way, we contribute to the implementation of Agenda 2030 on the international and national levels.
While food waste happens in the southern regions of the globe as a result of poor storage and conservation facilities, we here in Switzerland waste about a third (i.e. 2,500 tonnes) of food mainly on account of carelessness and a lack of attention. Supermarkets throw perfectly good products away because they’ve reached their “Best before” date, or continue offering fresh goods for sale right up to the time the shop closes, and then have to dispose of these products. All the same, almost half of all waste is produced by us, at home – in other words, we either buy too much or we forget about things at the back of the fridge. This avoidable food surplus is a waste of energy, raw materials and natural resources. Useful tips are available from the non-profit-making association www.foodwaste.ch.
In addition, responsible consumption doesn’t just mean avoiding the actual waste of food. The overwhelming range of products on offer in a supermarket tempts us to buy products that should not be available on either a regional or a seasonal basis – such as fresh strawberries in autumn and winter.
You can test your own shopping patterns at our CLEVER road show or in the virtual online shop, and obtain tips on how to make more sustainable shopping decisions.
Some foods are more of a luxury than we would really wish. For example, we often eat avocado, chia seeds and goji berries instead of our own superfoods, such as kale, flax seed and powdered wheatgrass – often forgetting the dark side of imports from Africa, Asia and South America. These include long transportation routes, cultivation in dry regions, deforestation to provide the land required for cultivation, poor working conditions and the use of synthetic pesticides. Finally, western food fashions (such as for quinoa) can increase local prices so much that the population can no longer afford their own traditional dishes.
Water shortages in the producer countries
Taking the avocado as one example: one third of all the avocados consumed worldwide are produced in Mexico. Other producer countries are the Dominican Republic, Peru, Columbia, Chile, Indonesia, Israel and Spain. Transportation routes are generally long; avocados may travel by ship to Europe, but they have to be refrigerated during transportation and storage. The climate impact is therefore just as damaging as that for other exotic fruit, such as bananas and mangos.
It takes about 1150 litres water to cultivate 1 kg avocado (approximately two and a half fruit). In addition, a further 850 litres of “grey” water is contaminated or used to dilute waste water during the production, storage or transportation stages. As a result, avocado plantations consume about double as much water as the pine forest that previously grew on the same area of land. The end effect is that increasingly little water finally arrives in the country’s water courses. This is not just happening in Mexico – whole rivers have already dried up in Chile, with far-reaching consequences for humans, animals and the entire ecosystem.
Hunger & me
First and foremost, food security is a global subject. Here in Switzerland, there is more than enough food for each and every one of us. However, the population of the world grows bigger all the time; industrial agricultural methods cause the soil to lose its fertility and the level of biodiversity is falling dramatically. This results in a reduction in the resilience of entire ecosystems in the face of extreme weather events – events of the kind that we have to expect will occur with greater frequency because of global warming. We have embarked upon a path that systematically destroys the very foundations upon which we live. Biovision is therefore calling for a change of course in agriculture. If we employed agroecological methods, sharply reduced our consumption of meat and eliminated food waste, we could eradicate hunger while simultaneously and sustainably conserving our resources.
- Biovision provides regular information about agriculture and food safety in its e-News.
Reducing meat consumption
Meat production gives rise to almost 20% of the world’s greenhouse gases. These climate-damaging gases are produced when animal fodder is cultivated and imported (e.g. soya from Brazil) and when meat is processed, transported and refrigerated. In addition, ruminant animals (such as cattle, goats and sheep) also give off methane, which is about 25 times more damaging than CO2. Nevertheless, our assessment of the effect of ruminants on the climate must still need be discriminating in nature; in mountainous areas, species-appropriate pasture grazing contributes to the preservation of local biodiversity. Overall, we need to reduce the number of animals (and particularly cattle) and fodder must be grassland-based (i.e. it must not contain any imported concentrates or grain).
World-wide, around 80% of all agricultural land area is required for the production of meat and dairy products, if we include the type of concentrates used for fattening animals that could also be consumed by people (grain, maize and soya). This situation represents a massive waste of calories.
In Switzerland, subsidies are still provided for meat and dairy products, and even for the promotion of these products. Unfortunately, the consumption of conventionally-produced milk and meat products is partially responsible for the loss of areas of rain forest, e.g. in Brazil, where forests are slashed and burned to make way for concentrated soya fodder. We should therefore only select organic regional meat grazed on natural pasture. We support the sustainable use of pasture-land, particularly at the higher altitudes, where fruit trees do not grow and it is impossible to cultivate vegetables.
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Growing your own food?
Vegetables on the balcony, a permaculture course or even completely self-sufficient: on little space you can grow much more than is generally believed. So it doesn't take a huge plot of land to get some self-planted food, the question is more: How green is your thumb?
And how can you navigate the label jungle?
A product furnished with a label guarantees that that product was produced in line with certain principles, and that it therefore offers added value – at least in terms of information. It is important for an independent control authority to check adherence to these principles. Companies’ own labels are often tricky – not every label promises everything it suggests. For example, the sustainability score awarded to Migros’ own organic line is significantly lower (141 points) than for Bio-Naturaplan from Coop (168 points) or the BioSuisse Knospen-Label (161 points). More information is available from www.labelinfo.ch.