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Food Extinction: What can you do to turn the tide?

Featured, Understanding Spices

If you haven’t had the chance to do so already, have a read of our article highlighting the plight of some of your favourite foods. In short, the future does not look bright. If you were left feeling a little gloomy and pessimistic off the back of that, we don’t blame you (sorry!)

However, here at Seasoned Pioneers we’re committed to sustainability and retain a positive outlook on the future of the food industry. Working together, we can all make a difference. We didn’t want to leave you feeling completely shattered, so read on and find out all about the different ways you can make a real difference starting today.

wheat

Wheat

Last year, the UK experienced its worst wheat harvest since the 1980’s and that’s a trend that looks set to continue with ongoing climate change having a real impact on unpredictably unsettled weather patterns across the country.

So, what can you do to help this situation? The best thing to do is add more variety to your diet. The more you can diversify your dinner plate, the better for the planet. Plus, your taste buds will thank you too!

We recommend checking out beans and lentils – this will really encourage the growth and further variety of plant protein such as peas, soya and beans. You can read more about how to cook with lentils here.

Honey

Honey

Bee populations are in sharp decline and one day, we could lose not just honey but a whole ecosystem, due to the fact that bees are so instrumental in the pollination process.

So, how can you help? First and most importantly, look to protect the bees. If you happen to be using a pesticide in your garden or on your land, check and check again to ensure it complies with all regulation and isn’t causing detrimental harm to the local environment and insect population. Furthermore, plant and encourage the growth of a variety of different bee-friendly plants in your garden. Check out this great article covering some of the best plants.

On top of this, when you next go shopping, check the labels on your honey. You want to avoid products that have ‘blended’ honey. You’re looking for the individual beekeeper who is much more likely to care about their local environment and is doing a much better job of looking after the bees than a larger corporation who are just in the business to turn a profit.

Coffee Beans

Coffee beans

Up to 60% of wild coffee species are under the threat of extinction and it’s estimated that as much as 50% of the land used to grow coffee will no longer be farmable by the end of this century. You may not want to hear this but, perhaps it’s time to drink less coffee? Failing that, a simple check of the labels could help put your money in the right pockets.

There are numerous certification programmes out there that promote a much more sustainable and ethical cultivation of coffee (you’ll see the same thing with chocolate, too). These bodies include the Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade, Soil Association Organic and Bird Friendly.

These organisations certify that the coffee is coming from a sustainable source, including the use of traditional cultivation methods such as ensuring crops are grown under the shade of existing trees (this helps to protect the local biodiversity and requires fewer resources).

Furthermore, you’ll find the promotion of a fair, minimum wage for local coffee growers, support for soil fertility and further biodiversity, as well as guarantees of the clamp-down on slave and child labour.

If you can’t find these things on the label or stated by the brand, don’t buy it.

Peanuts

Peanuts

The good news is that already, peanuts are a pretty good source of sustainable food. Effectively, they’re nature’s zero-waste plant. Everything is used, from the roots to the shell. They also require less water and have the smallest carbon footprint of any nut being grown. Other options like almonds and cashews need consistent water, while peanuts simply adjust their growing cycle based on the water availability.

Of course, the problem here is that for many of the best peanut-growing regions in the world, rain is becoming less predictable thanks to climate change. Our advice is to look for brands that promote soil fertility, pay fair wages and conserve water as much as possible.

Chocolate

Chocolate

As mentioned with (and similar to) coffee, you’ll find a number of bodies dedicated to promoting sustainable cocoa bean growth (Fairtrade being one of the most prominent).

With the world eating through a growing deficit and the health of the land used to grow cocoa beans rapidly disintegrating, it’s really important that you buy from the right suppliers. Ideally, a mixed, diverse rainforest works best for sustainability and production. The more variety of plants mixed in with the cocoa plant, the better the soil fertility.

Increasingly, the market is seeing more ‘bean-to-bar’ producers enter. They’re engaged in the whole process from start to finish and, by operating on a smaller scale, they pay a lot closer attention to the source of their cocoa. So, look out for this organic, sustainable chocolate on the shelves. It’s cheaper (and genuinely tastier) than you may realise!

Avocados

Avocados

Avocados, while delicious, are not sustainable. They put tremendous strains on local environments and cause all kinds of social issues, too. In California, there is the issue of massive drought. In Mexico, there is the blight of cartels and gangs who monopolise the trade (avocados are known as ‘green gold’ in this part of the world).

Ultimately, there’s a call to stop consuming foreign foods as if they were produced, traded and distributed in our own country. Experts are calling for a shift away from this and instead ask that we eat them in more moderation – like a special treat (the same argument exists for out-of-control meat consumption). If we can scale back our avocado demand, it would decrease the need for supply and help ease impacts on the environment. This would free up water – a precious, scarce resource in many avocado-growing regions and also scale back mass deforestation.

Furthermore, by checking for a Fairtrade label, you can guarantee that the farmers and their staff are enjoying fair working conditions and wages that are better than most in the industry.

Bananas

Bananas

Bananas are currently being ravished by Panama disease (nothing new, if you look at history). They may well disappear altogether unless new methods of growing and even whole new species of banana are adopted.

Panama disease is a result of the highly-damaging monoculture farming that permeates all sectors of the agricultural industry. A number of studies have found that by growing bananas in rotation and alongside other crops (including leeks and cassava), the infection A) won’t have vast swathes of targets growing closely together as is the case right now and B) may not spread at all thanks to the natural chemicals released into the soil by leeks and cassava.

So, when and where possible, buy bananas that are grown in these environments by brands and companies who back variety in their crops and maintain a healthy biodiversity. Furthermore, look at diversifying your fruit palette. Buy less bananas, add more pears, apples, strawberries and any other locally-grown products.

You may also be able to find other species of bananas that are not yet susceptible to the Panama disease. These are likely to become the future of the banana industry, so why not start supporting them now?

Wine Grapes

Wine grapes

The way climate change is going, many of the world’s most favourite wine regions could well disappear within 100 years.

In order to combat this, it’s clear that wineries and vineyards need to start promoting more biodiverse ecosystems. These ecosystems have been found to provide natural pest control and complete nutrient cycles that really benefit vine growth. So, not only does the surrounding environment benefit and come back to a healthy equilibrium, but the wine itself may actually taste better!

Next time you’re looking for a bottle, check the labels and do your research to ensure that the wine is coming from a sustainable, organic producer who, ideally, is also committed to a zero carbon footprint. Rewarding these producers with your money will help promote the cause and force others into action. You can read a great example about Fetzer Vineyards in America, who have been carbon neutral for years.

Tuna

Tuna

At the moment, the Bluefin Tuna is critically endangered and at the mercy of overfishing. Avoid this type at all costs and instead, when you do eat tuna, opt for something like skipjack.

Again, it’s all about diversity. Why have tuna all the time when you can opt for a smaller but equally delicious fish such as mackerel or tinned sardines? As they always say, there are plenty more fish in the sea! Now more than ever, local British fishermen and suppliers are in need of your trade. Get in contact with them and find out how you can diversify your seafood. Call4fish is a great way of doing this.

Furthermore, when you do end up buying Tuna, check on the tin for details about its origin and sustainability.

Main conclusion

As consumers, once we understand the impact that our choice have, we can consider what we decide to buy and eat. When we understand and appreciate the complexity of our food system, we can begin to change it for the better!

Essentially, you always want to know where your food is coming from and where your money is going. Rather than browsing aimlessly in your local supermarket and picking up whatever looks best or whatever is cheapest, take the time to do your research, check the labels and make a more informed, confident and educated purchase. Every little action helps!

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