THE ISSUES

Fair
Humane
Healthy
Good for the Environment

 

The United Nations has called it;

“It is time to rethink how we grow, share and consume our food.”

“…Right now, our soils, freshwater, oceans, forests and biodiversity are being rapidly degraded. Climate change is putting even more pressure on the resources we depend on, increasing risks associated with disasters such as droughts and floods. Many rural women and men can no longer make ends meet on their land, forcing them to migrate to cities in search of opportunities.”[i]

 

These statements ring true all over the world, including Australia.

Agriculture is Australia’s most extensive form of land use, occupying 60% of our total land area (cities and towns take up less than 1%).[ii] So it’s understandable that if we don’t change our farming practices to be more environmentally-friendly, we could be in a world of hurt.

Already we’re seeing people and places suffer because of our food system. But it’s not all doom and gloom. It’s not too late to make it right. Our individual choices – what we choose to eat and where we choose to shop – can make a world of difference. We can be #grexy.

Read more about how we can create a food system that’s fair, humane, healthy and good for the environment.



FAIR

Farmers, producers and everyone involved in the food chain are critical to our survival and the health of our country (imagine if they all went on strike) yet they’re not receiving a fair price for putting food on our tables. The supermarket duopoly and a consumer obsession with low prices are forcing the matter. Furthermore, farmers are responsible for being stewards of over 60% of our land. We expect them to practice sustainable farming and be resilient in the face of drought and climate change, yet who is absorbing the cost of this?

 Let’s be fair to farmers and the like. After all, it’s way #grexier to hug a farmer than to kick ‘em while they’re down. Learn more by expanding the topics below.

Together our supermarket giants – Coles and Woolworths – control almost 80% of the grocery market as well as large portions of the fuel, liquor and hardware sectors.[i] With such control over the market, the two big supermarkets are able to dictate their own terms and conditions, often to the detriment of their suppliers. This excerpt from the respected journal The Monthly gives an insight into the impact this duopoly-driven grocery market has on farmers:

“Steve, a Woolworths-contracted lettuce grower who does not want to be identified, is destroying more produce than he used to farm. The supermarket’s orders vary in volume, but Steve has to be ready to fill the largest one possible. He has duly increased the size of his farm. “I have to grow for the maximum size of an order, or else I lose the contract. So I grow on that scale even though the order is usually a lot less. Everything I don’t sell, I have to destroy.”[ii]

[i] Australia’s Grocery Sector, Nick Xenophon, http://www.nickxenophon.com.au/campaigns/supermarkets/, viewed 10/02/2016
[ii] Knox M., Supermarket Monsters, August 2014, The Monthly, https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2014/august/1406815200/malcolm-knox/supermarket-monsters, viewed 10/02/2016

A 2014 green paper on agriculture in Australia revealed that farmers, on average, are receiving just 10% of the final price for the food they supply. In the 1950s, farmers received about 50% of the retail price, while in 1900 as much as 90% of the sale price went back to the farm gate.[i]

[i] Neales S, October 21 2014, The Australian, Fair go for farmers or else, supermarket giants told, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/fair-go-for-farmers-or-else-supermarket-giants-told/news-story/5616ec423af87da740d3bcd2faed967c, viewed 10/02/2016

Current Australian ‘country of origin’ labeling laws allow products to be labeled as ‘Made in Australia’ so long as 51% of the product has been ‘substantially transformed’ here. That means that a bottle of ‘Australian made’ orange juice could actually be made of 90% concentrate from Brazilian oranges!

When food is labeled ‘produced and packed in Australia’, it seems safe to assume it’s an ethical choice. Sadly, there is now conclusive evidence that slave-like conditions, gross underpayment and black market labour gangs are in force on farms and factories supplying Australia’s largest supermarkets and fast food chains.[i]

[i] Meldrum-Hanna C., and  Russell A, Slaving Away, May 6 2015, http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/stories/2015/05/04/4227055.htm, viewed 10/02/2016
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HEALTHY

The food we eat has the power to make us incredibly sexy or incredibly not. Currently it’s the latter. Australia is the 3rd most obese Western nation and that ain’t sexy in the slightest.[iv] More than a superficial worry, poor diet – one with too much processed food and meat and too few vegetables – has seen us become overweight and undernourished and has driven an epidemic of life-threatening diseases including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and bowel cancer.[v] Today’s generation of children may be the first to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

As a society, we either change what we eat or we absorb the incredible burden of inaction through our taxes and worse; illness and early deaths… which would you prefer?

Only 1 in 20 Australians eat the recommended amount of vegetables, while we eat double the recommended amount of red meat.[i] Eating plenty of fresh veg is important in preventing many cancers and other illnesses. In contrast, a diet too rich in meat, especially processed meats like sausages and salami etc, has been linked to an increased risk of bowel cancers, heart disease and other illnesses.[ii]

[i] Australian Health Survey, Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2015, http://abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/4364.0.55.009?OpenDocument
[ii] Meat and Cancer, Cancer Council NSW, http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/21639/cancer-information/cancer-risk-and-prevention/healthy-weight-diet-and-exercise/meat-and-cancer/, viewed 11/02/2016

In the 1970s, the average supermarket sold between 3000 and 4000 food items; now it stocks 80,000 food products. We think we’re getting more variety and loads of choice, but in reality most of these food products are manufactured with the same basic ingredients and their derivatives: wheat, corn, sugar and fat.[i]

[i] Ting I, How Australia eats: The ultimate pie chart, November 2013, Good Food, http://www.goodfood.com.au/good-food/food-news/how-australia-eats-the-ultimate-pie-chart-20131102-2wstm.html#ixzz3zo2UGnEi, viewed 11/02/2016

The cost burden of obesity and illnesses caused by our poor diet equates to almost $40 billion annually in Australia alone.[i] Looking closely at the graph below, which breaks down how the average Australian household spends their weekly food budget, we can see that more is spent on processed foods such as bakery products, confectionery, prepared meals and alcohol than on healthy food such as fruit and vegetables.

FoodBudgetAustraliaPieChart.JPG

 

[i] Obesity in Australia: financial impacts and cost benefits of intervention, 2010, Medibank Health Solutions, http://www.medibank.com.au/client/documents/pdfs/obesity_report_2010.pdf
Data for pie chart sourced from Australian Bureau of Statistics

Evidence is stacking up to show that chemicals in food packaging can leach into food and put us at further risk of cancer and other illnesses. Two types of plastic used to package food are of particular concern: polycarbonate, used in food cans, food containers and packaged sauces, and PVC, used in cling film, clear plastic fresh fruit/sandwich containers and some soft drink bottles. Chemicals in these plastics may be causing problems including infertility, obesity, breast cancer, prostate cancer, heart disease and diabetes.[i]

[i] Oakenfull D, Plastics and Food, August 2014, Choice, https://www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/food-warnings-and-safety/plastic/articles/plastics-and-food, viewed 11/02/2016

Processed food and additives go together (like a horse and carriage). Not many (if any at all) processed and pre-packed foods have escaped them. Even packaged bread loaves are made with additives. Additives are used to make food last longer, taste better, feel smoother, or look brighter. Some additives are extracted from natural ingredients, others are manufactured from petroleum. Some popular additives have been linked to hyperactivity in children, asthma, migraines and even cancer.[i]

[i] Oakenfull D, Food Additives to Avoid, Choice, August 2014, https://www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/food-warnings-and-safety/food-additives/articles/food-additives-you-should-avoid, viewed 11/02/2016

Synthetic pesticides, antibiotics and hormones (widely used in the beef industry) are used in conventional plant and animal farming to protect crops from pests, prevent diseases and boost growth rates. While the levels of chemical residues that are allowed in food are considered safe, sometimes a pesticide is thought to be safe but is revealed later to have negative health effects. The pesticide DDT, for instance, was widely used in Australia until it was discovered that it could accumulate in our fat and is now banned.

In organic farming, synthetic inputs are banned and only natural substances or mechanical means are used to maintain healthy plant crops and animals.

Look at your weekly grocery shop like taking out health insurance. If you choose wisely, you will be greatly improving the health outcomes of you and your family.

  • Increase the plant based food in your diet – Your mum wasn’t lying when she said vegies were good for you
  • Reduce your meat intake to weekends or just a few times a week and when you do eat meat, choose organic or ethically-farmed meat
  • Eat unprocessed wholefoods – e.g., fresh fruit and veg, nuts, wholegrains
  • Avoid processed and packaged food
  • Eat as much organic or biodynamic food as you can afford.
Healthy-450
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HUMANE

To keep up with our current demand for meat and the expectation that it will be cheap and readily available, Australia now farms the majority of livestock in factory farms. In fact, there are over 500 million chickens, pigs, ducks, rabbits and turkeys in factory farms each year.[iii] This often sees them suffer unimaginable conditions. It’s animal cruelty under the guise of ‘efficient meat production’.

That’s not grexy. It’s easy to help. It’s a matter of making a few loving choices. See below.

Humane Infographic

 

 



GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT

The way we currently grow, process and distribute food is causing serious environmental damage. We’re using too much water, clearing too much land, applying too many chemicals, dumping too much edible food and transporting it all vast distances. These habits are polluting our air, soil and water and harming our wildlife. At the same time, the changing climate is putting even more pressure on the resources we need. Something’s gotta give.

Thankfully there are simple things we can do to help and they don’t involved hugging trees.

 

Environment-450

 

 

References

[i] United Nations, Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture, http://www.un.org/en/sustainablefuture/food.asp, viewed 12/11/2015

[ii] Department of the Environment, Australian Government, Australian Actions to Combat Desertification and Land Degradation, https://www.environment.gov.au/resource/australian-actions-combat-desertification-and-land-degradation, viewed 12/11/2015

[iii] Voiceless, Factory Farming, https://www.voiceless.org.au/the-issues/factory-farming, viewed 22/12/2015

[iv] Daily Mail, How fat is YOUR country – and which nations have the highest obesity rates? These new maps may surprise you… http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2920219/How-fat-country-nations-highest-obesity-rates-new-maps-surprise-you.html, viewed 22/12/2015

[v] Better Health Channel, Obesity – Increased risk of chronic disease, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/obesity, viewed 22/12/2015