Healthy food is the result of sustainable agriculture systems that are farming methods and processes geared to the growth, harvesting, and delivery of healthy food to the consumer while taking environmentally safe agriculture measures.
The new generation of Americans is more aware of the harmful chemical additives and environmental threats of traditional or commercial methods of factory farming and food production. Along with the need to feed themselves and their kids healthy food, this knowledge is bringing about change in the food buying habits and diet of Americans.
Much of the food we find at today’s supermarkets is grown, processed, and sold with harmful chemical food additives. These additives change the way food tastes and looks, and they increase the food’s shelf life. To maximize profitability and production, large commercial farms feed animals low doses of antibiotics for faster growth. This contributes to a national health issue of the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in humans.
Large factory farms without sustainable systems often have harmful pesticides, fertilizers, and antibiotic by-products that find their way into ground water, rivers, and streams. These harmful residues lead to the contamination of aquatic ecosystems and drinking water.
While there is an increasing awareness and corresponding increase in sustainable farming, there is also the need for large factory farms to maximize food production and profitability. In response to this demand by the large commercial factory farms, many of the world’s largest chemical corporations are shifting out of commodity petrochemicals into Agricultural Biotechnology.
Since 1996, Monsanto and Hoechst (Germany) have changed their business plans by spinning off its industrial chemicals business and have since made huge investments in acquiring seed and agricultural biotechnology companies. Sustainable agriculture systems are geared to the production of healthy and environmentally safe farming and food products. It includes a number of requirements:
• The fertility of the soil being continuously maintained and improved.
• The availability and quality of water being protected and enhanced.
• The protection of bio diversity for farms, farm workers, and all other factors in food production chain.
• Programs to minimize the impact on the environment concerning the discharge of waste and greenhouse gas emissions.
While there is no widely recognized body for certification of sustainable food and agriculture systems, the other components — organic and bio dynamic food and agriculture systems — have certification standards.
Certified organic food is the result of farming without the application of harmful pesticides, artificial fertilizers, contamination by human or industrial waste, ionizing radiation, or food additives, and it is not genetically modified. Where livestock is grown, they must be free of antibiotics and without the use of growth hormones.
Bio dynamic food production is a more stringent level of food production than organic farming. It is both a philosophy and art form of agriculture. The Demeter Association, with branches around the world, is the certification body for bio dynamic farming. Its certification standards are the highest level of sustainable farming achieving one of the smallest carbon footprints of any agricultural method.
Bio dynamics takes a systems approach to agriculture farming where each farm component or action is viewed in total as it affects the others. The systems approach includes the use of bio dynamic sprays, retention of nutrients, crop rotation designs, weed control, plant pests, and the recycling of organic wastes and composting. For livestock production, it includes animal nutrition, the disposition of animal wastes, and the mix and rotation of animal species on pastures to maximize grazing patterns and minimize pasture borne parasites.