Issue: March 2014, What to eat? – Healthy food, small footprint


Enjoy your meal

Editorial by Michael Sailer, CEO, Oeko-Institutdes Öko-Instituts

The theme of the latest edition of eco@work is sustainable food. What can we add to the organic movement’s familiar mantra: “organic – local – seasonal”? In this magazine we don’t dispute that there are always both environmental and health advantages to buying organically produced foods, supporting local farming and eating foods in season, especially as they mostly taste better than produce grown under glass. And I just love eating strawberries when they are properly ripe. But are all the organic claims actually true? And should we restrict ourselves to the rule of three I quoted above when talking about sustainable food? Or doesn’t it instead merit a more comprehensive examination that, as a scientific institute, we both can and want to give?

You may be aware of my personal interest in historic events and developments. Growing food and eating meat – in the past much less than now, of course – has always been a part of man’s cultural history; food production has always been an important economic factor. Today, as a result of globalisation, that applies even more to food flows. At the same time there are always other factors too, environmentally and socially significant ones, associated with food. Think of the pollution of rivers and seas that we have been causing for many decades through the extensive use of mineral fertilisers. And the increasing transportation of fruit, meat, and finished products such as baked goods, which generates additional greenhouse gas emissions. In many countries of the world, social structure is determined by dietary habits – for years there has been criticism, rightly so, of agricultural speculation, rising food prices and inequitably distributed resources for production, which prevent sustainable farming.

There are thus many facets to the topic of sustainable food – we can’t deal with them all in this issue of eco@work. That is why, with our expertise as an environment and sustainability institute, we are focusing on the aspects of environmental performance, resource conservation and climate change mitigation. We believe that, to do this, we need to look at the whole environmental footprint. A simple carbon footprint is not enough; instead an integrated study of factors such as land requirement, emissions, and material and energy consumption is needed. You will find detailed articles on this in our In Focus section. As always, our interview presents the viewpoint of someone we work with.

I hope you enjoy this issue,

Michael Sailer CEO, Oeko-Institut

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