December 20, 2008. Not coming from the sustainable food movement directly, I can easily see how many people (maybe even most people) do not have a clear idea what is meant by sustainable food, or sustainable agriculture. Many people may understand what “organic” means, as the absence of “bad” things like pesticides, chemical fertilizers, animal hormones, etc.. But that is far from the whole picture. The beauty of sustainability is it’s a larger umbrella that covers care for the environment, social justice for workers, fair equity return for the farmer, respect for the people who eat the food (eaters), and the strengthening of local food economies. It’s a more holistic perspective.
Here’s a brief sampling of definitions for sustainable food from around the web:
Sustainable agriculture involves food production methods that are healthy, do not harm the environment, respect workers, are humane to animals, provide fair wages to farmers, and support farming communities.
Rather than steaming ahead at the current rate, with little thought for future generations, sustainability is about seeking ways of providing food, water and energy that are long-lasting and have less of an impact on the environment.
Yale Sustainable Food Project:
We say that “a practice can be called sustainable if and only if it can be continued indefinitely without degrading the systems and resources upon which it relies.”
National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (ATTRA):
Sustainable agriculture is one that produces abundant food without depleting the earth’s resources or polluting its environment. It is agriculture that follows the principles of nature to develop systems for raising crops and livestock that are, like nature, self-sustaining. Sustainable agriculture is also the agriculture of social values, one whose success is indistinguishable from vibrant rural communities, rich lives for families on the farms, and wholesome food for everyone.
We believe that the food we eat should taste good; that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health; and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work.
The fiery Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food International, and the poet-philosopher of the sustainable food movement gets to the soul of the matter in these brief snippets pulled from a talk last year in Portland, Oregon. For those who like to consume their information whole, the entire talk is available here: From Fast Food Nation to Slow Food Nation
What does sustainable food or sustainable agriculture mean to you?