Food-RatingTable of contents:
|Ways of acting for the protection of nature||apple juice, pear juice||milk and milk products|
|References to the Food-Rating table||apples, pears||mushrooms|
|Recommendation, if a certain food isn't listed in the table||asparagus||olives and olive oil|
|Importance of ecological compensation areas||coffee||potatoes|
|grain, various kinds||vegetables|
|margarine and vegetable fats from pal moil|
|meat, various kinds|
A. Ways of acting for the protection of nature
Production of food promotes or impairs nature. Many consumers would like to know how they can exert influence towards a more nature-compatible agriculture.
B. References to the table food Rating
Konsum & Natur judges the nature compatibility of food. The results are summarized in the following table. The list of products is periodically supplemented. If a certain food isn't listed in the table, Konsum & Natur recommends organic food, because organic agriculture is frequently better for nature than conventional production.
Since all of today's agriculture methods (inclusive of organic production) are too intensive, the preservation and promotion of fauna and flora, i.e. nature protection, needs ecological compensation areas. In Switzerland it is legally prescribed that farmers must adopt 7% of their land for ecological compensation, otherwise they cannot apply for federal subsidies (direct payments). However, the amount of compensation areas must be increased and their biological quality must be improved. For example compensation areas on grassland are not yet sufficient for the requirements of ground-breeding birds. For more than five years this is a major demand of the Swiss NGO's (Non Governmental organizations), who are active in nature and bird protection. Until today the legislator fulfilled this demand to a small degree: In spring 2001 the "Oeko Qualitätsverordnung" (a federal statute) came into force, since when a farmer receives direct payments with "quality bonus".
C. "Food-Rating" Table (evaluation of the nature compatibility of different food):
|Food||Influence of production on nature|| |
apple juice, pear juice (sweet or fermented), juice concentrate (pear spread)
The fruits for juice predominantly originate from high trunk trees (see above), which build habitat for many animals, especially for numerous rare species (birds, bats, small mammals, insects). The management of the green areas between the trees should be improved (no fertilizers, extensive grazing or staggered cutting).
in particular products of organic agriculture. (In Switzerland there exists a label for products from high tree orchards, see "HOCHSTAMM SUISSE")
Recommendation: buy more apple and pear juice instead of lemonade and other fruit juices.
Juice concentrate (pear spread) is a versatile usable sugar substitute.
apples, pears (dessert fruits)
Dessert fruits such as apples and pears are grown on low trunk trees (Niederstammbäume), that is trees of a maximum height of 2 - 4 meters. In contrary to orchards with high trunk trees, that is trees growing up to 15 meters height, small mammals and birds do not like the low trunk orchards, because caves and other places for shelter are lacking.
In principle the green areas under the fruit trees could become valuable habitats. Though conventional orchards get sprayed up to 14 times a year partly with ecotoxic pesticides (organo-phosphates, carbamates).
Since mice like to gnaw the roots of the fruit trees, the vegetation around the trunk is destroyed with herbicide.
A great deal of agricultural insecticides is sprayed on dessert fruit orchards (in Switzerland ca. 1/3 of all insecticides). Organic fruit production uses no synthetic pesticides, but certain natural active agents (e.g. pyrethroids, extracts of quassia root or sulfur) against insect pests and fungi. These substances are much less damaging to nature.
apples and pears (dessert
Recommended are dessert fruits from biological production.
Asparagus often are imported by airplane. For example the transportation from California to Europe requires more than 4 - 5 litres of kerosene per kilogram asparagus.
Asparagus yields from Europe are usually transported with trucks (lower energy consumption).
asparagus from overseas:
Recommendation: abstain from asparagus from overseas. Choose asparagus, that is grown in your own country or at least in Europe.
If available purchase organic asparagus.
Coffee is planted in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia (esp. Vietnam). Production of coffee has been strongly intensified in the last 20 years. Two kinds of very different cultivation exist: sun grown coffee and shade grown coffee.
"Sun grown coffee" is the industrial way of production: Coffee plants grow in monocultures and are heavily treated with pesticides and fertilizers. Sun grown coffee plantations build no suitable habitat for fauna and flora. The hostility of these plantations is of particular importance, because numerous migratory birds used to spend winter in the traditional form of coffee cultures, that is the shade grown coffee culture. In sun grown coffee cultures birds can't find fodder and the hiding places are limited. Besides, especially in Southeast Asia, rain forests are cleared, in order to establish sun grown coffee plantations.
"Shade grown coffee" is the traditional way of production: Here the coffee plants grow in mixed cultures with banana palms or other fruit trees in the penumbra of these plants (see name "shade grown..."). Fertilizers or pesticides either aren't used at all or input is low. These cultures are very valuable habitats for wild plants, small mammals and particularly for migrating and wintering birds. For example the diversity of birds in shade grown coffee cultures is 1'000% larger than in sun grown coffee plantations. Besides, the fruit trees in shade grown coffee cultures supply the farmers with fruits and wood.
Due to a coffee overproduction in the last few years, prices for coffee dropped to 1/3 of the former amount, which forced many subsistence farmers to grow drug plants such as coca and opium poppy.
conventional coffee, without label: , since mostly originating from sun grown coffee plantations.
coffee with label "Max Havelaar" (originating 90% from shade grown coffee cultures) and/or organic coffee:
Recommendation: Buy coffee, that is produced biologically or with the label "Max Havelaar". Ask for organic coffee in the pub or in restaurant.
|eggs: see meat|
More than a quarter of the world wide fishing grounds are over-fished, i.e. exploited. Unless fishing is substantially limited in the near future, the same fate will soon overtake the remaining three quarters of fishing grounds. Today fishing destroys the marine ecosystem at an unbelievable speed. Fish feeding animals such as seals, penguins and dolphins are starving. The catch of rare fish such as certain shark-species and sturgeon already caused their extermination in numerous parts of the world. Particularly detrimental are the superfluous parts of a catch: turtles, dolphins and other non-edible fish get caught in the, up to 60 kilometer long, haul nets and die sorrowfully. Only the Mackerel-fishery has low superfluous parts of catch (3%, most hering and perch).
longline fishing with baits on a hook-occupied line heavily threatens sea-birds:
Annually 300'000 sea-birds which want to eat the baits drown. 26 species of sea-birds,
as for example the wandering albatross, are threatened of becoming extinct by
fish (fish farming)
water fish (fish farming)
sea fish: , exception mackerels
Also not recommended are certified sea fish, e.g. fish with the label MSC (Marine Stewardship Counselship), because these fish originate from the last sane fishing grounds. These fishing grounds should be treated with care for they build a reservoir for the re-propagation of fish populations. Besides, the fish yield of MSC-areas isn't sufficient to supply consumers with even a fraction of today's fish consumption.
fish, fish-farming (esp. salmon):
fresh water fish:
fresh water fish, fish
fresh water fish, fish-farming
Recommendation: reduce fish consumption; choose common species of fresh water fish, or from organic fish-farms. Consume more carp.
corn: see above
In former times - approximately up to 1900 - a plethora of wild animals and plants found its habitat in cornfields. With the industrial revolution (introduction of pesticides, fertilizers and heavy machinery in agriculture) the conditions of life for fauna and flora began to deteriorate.
Since the amount of cornfields on total cropland is high (in Switzerland for example cornfields take 55%, that is 160'000 hectares, of the arable land) grain production is very nature relevant. None of the cultivation methods practiced today is sufficient to preserve biodiversity. Even the biologically managed cornfields aren't suitable habitats for sensitive animal and plant species, which principally could live in extensively managed cropland (e.g. Grey Partridge, Corncrake, Cornflower). Compared with other crop-cultures cornfields however are the most nature compatible. Even in conventional cornfields only small quantities of insecticides are sprayed.
Because of the intensive management of cornfields (and the rest of arable land too), the native fauna and flora can only be preserved and promoted by putting up more ecological compensation areas like "Buntbrachen" (that is a managed fallow with a special mixture of flowers and herbs. Buntbrachen is a Swiss invention. Farmers receive federal subsidiaries for Buntbrachen on former cropland).
- conventional production: -
- biological production: -
Especially recommended are organic grain-products.
Since all over western europe the number of farmed animals is too high for preserving and improving biodiversity, Konsum & Natur recommends replacing food of animal origin by grain (and other vegetable) products. Besides, eating more grain products promotes your health.
In Central Europe maize was only cultivated to the larger extent
after the middle of the last century. This was due to the maize plant, coming
from the warmth of South America, which had to first become accustomed to the
harsher climate of Europe. Meanwhile maize fields occupy a great part of arable
land, in Switzerland for example 21% (62'000 hectares). |
The predominant part of harvested maize goes into pig and chicken fodder.
Due to the short existence of maize in Central Europe, the need to remove weeds from the maize seedlings and the shadowing of the ground by the older maize plants, the evolution of a rich fauna and flora in maize cultures was impossible. Maize cultures are generally incompatible to nature.
Sowing of grass and small herbs on the ground of maize cultures (so called "maize meadows") reduces erosion, facilitates the use of machines and consumes surplus nitrogen after the harvest. Further, the quantity of used herbicides lowers. However, for the diversity of species, maize meadows are only of small importance, because only a few undemanding grass and herb species are suitable for maize meadows. Insects and other animal species aren't promoted. Only the overall number of insects rises somewhat.
Because of the intensive management of maize cultures (and the rest of arable land too), the native fauna and flora can only be preserved and promoted by putting up more ecological compensation areas.
In Central Europe the cultivation of genetically modified plants (GMPs) is practically impossible, because consumers abstain from genetically manipulated food ("de facto moratorium"). However, in the USA, Canada and Argentina in 2000 over 9 million hectares were already cultivated with maize, that has a transgene make it produce a bacterial toxin against insect pests. A permission for that type of manipulated maize in Europe would likely have negative consequences for nature, because the bacterial toxin would damage other - non-detrimental - insects too.
Konsum & Natur recommends to lower the consumption of pork, poultry and eggs, because pigs and chickens are substantially fed with maize, which is generally incompatible to nature.
However if consumers eat polenta, sugar maize, maize bread etc., a "more direct" maize consumption takes effect. Since the production of a calorie of animal food needs approximately quadruple that of vegetable animal fodder calories, direct consumption of maize takes up only 25% of the area of arable land, which would be necessary for the production of the same amount of animal food calories. For this reason Konsum & Natur advises to eat maize instead of meat and eggs. Maize from biological cultivation should be preferred.
|margarine and vegetable fats from pal moil|| |
A main part of many margarine and vegetable fats is palm oil. The oil palm, from which the oil contents are extracted, grows in the tropical forest belt (particularly in Southeast Asia and West Africa). The world-wide palm oil production has trebled itself since 1990. For increased cultivation vast areas of jungles and rain forests are cleared. If cultivation continues in this way, some 100 million hectares of primary forest and the animal and plant world of these areas will disappear in the next two decades.
Margarine and vegetable fats without special declaration:
Pal moil is also used in cookies, instant-sauces, soups, cosmetics etc. See the declaration of contents on the packaging.
Switzerland the whole assortment of margarine and vegetable fats from "Migros"
(a supermarket) contains pal moil from sustainable and biological cultivation
in Ghana. The purchase of these products is recommended:
The great land requirement of livestock is a consequence of the low efficiency of the transformation process of fodder protein and energy into meat, milk and eggs (more: see milk, below).
The high number of farmed animals not only leads to pollution of water stretches but also to the loss of plant species and plant populations due to over-fertilization. Since the production pressure on cropland, meadows and pastures is too high, (more) ecological compensation areas must be established.
cattle, sheep and goats
Cattle, sheep and goats are fed predominantly with grass and hay. Therefore nature compatible management of the meadows and pastures is fundamental for nature conservation.
In Switzerland for example over the past 100 years 90% of the formerly flower-rich greenlands have been converted into poor-species meadows and pastures due to over-fertilization, over-grazing, frequent meadow cuts and drainages. Because 10 to 20 animal species depend vitally on one plant species, thereby the native fauna has been substantially thinned out too.
Sheep and goat farming usually is rather extensive. Therefore sheep (lamb) and goat meat belong to the most nature compatible animal products. However the number of sheep and goats on the pastures is often too high.
poultry and eggs
sheep- and goat meat, all types of production: -
and poultry, eggs:
Since all over Western Europe the number of farmed animals is too high for preserving and improving biodiversity, Konsum & Natur recommends consuming less meat, eggs and milk. Besides, eating more vegetables keeps you healthier.
For the remaining consumed animal products, take into account the following priority order: Prefer beef, sheep and goat meat to pork and poultry. Prefer animal products from organic agriculture.
Veal: Because the production of veal needs considerable landmass, consumption should be reduced to a minimum.
Milk and milk products of cows, sheep and goats
Cows, sheep and goats first eat green fodder (grass, hay). Therefore the nature compatibility of milk depends on the management of the meadows and pastures.
Milk production is a relatively efficient way to convert vegetable fodder into protein and energy: 43% of the fodder protein and 36% of the fodder energy goes into milk. Meat and egg production has a much lower efficiency:
For the destruction of valuable meadows: see meat
-organic milk: -
Many kinds of mushroom have become rare today, among other reasons because too many people collect too many mushrooms.
In contrary, cultivated mushrooms, in particular from organic mushroom farms, are unproblematic.
cultivated mushrooms:, if available use mushrooms from biological cultivation
|olives, olive oil|| |
Organic olive farmers show that olives can be produced without pesticides by implementing various cultures, which promote an equilibrium between pests and natural pest-killers (e.g. birds, that eat insect pests). However, also in the production of organic olives the management of the grassland should be improved (restricted removal of herbs around the trees).
conventional olives or olive oil:
organic olives or olive oil: -
In Central Europe cultivation of potatoes began around 1750. Compared with the several thousand of years in which grain and oil plants were grown, the potato culture is very young. In spite of the short time potato fields exist in Europe, numerous animals and plants could tap the land for habitat. For example in Switzerland 75% of the endangered Yellow Wagtails (a songbird similar to the White Wagtail) breed in small intensive potato fields. However, the mechanisation, the input of pesticides and fertilizer worsened the living conditions of wild plants and animals in potato fields too.
The potato is a delicate plant. Most sorts are susceptible to virus or fungus pests. To prevent crop losses conventional agriculture uses large amounts of pesticides in potato fields.
None of today's methods of potato cultivation is sufficient for the preservation of biodiversity. Even the biologically managed fields do not represent suitable habitats for sensitive animal and plant species.
Because of the intensive management of potato fields (and the rest of arable land too), the native fauna and flora can only be preserved and promoted by putting up more ecological compensation areas.
Recommendation: Consume organic potatoes. If not available, don't buy the sort "Bintie", because this potato plant is particularly susceptible for pests and requires a lot of pesticides.
Since all over Western Europe the number of farmed animals is too high for preserving and improving biodiversity, Konsum & Natur recommends replacing food of animal origin with potato (and other vegetable) products.
Revolution": environmentally harmful high yield varieties
Unfortunately this environmentally harmful input of chemicals is often supported by "development assistance supplies", of which a substantial part frequently consists of pesticides and fertilizers. For example Japanese auxiliary packages still contain up to 30% of pesticides.
The described revision in the cultivation of rice not only damaged, and still damages, the natural environment of rice production areas, but also destroyed social structures because with fertilizer and pesticides, less work is invested to produce the same quantity of rice. Thus, in the rice farming villages of Asia, the number of jobs reduced and young people moved to cities.
rice: better for nature and humans
Since biological production requires more work, purchasing organic rice not only protects nature but also helps the rice farmers to earn more money.
Additionally, the airfreighting of fresh Shrimps devours much energy.
neither buy nor consume
vegetables (tomatoes, courgettes, carrots, celery, radish, lettuce etc.)
potatoes: see below
cropland usually offers little habitat for wild animals and plants. In particular,
vegetables grown in greenhouses are not nature compatible, because the manufacturing
areas are separated from the environment and the heating of the greenhouses consumes
a lot of energy (mostly oil fuel). Depending on the climate and type of vegetable,
one square meter in a greenhouse devours up to 30 Liters oil in a year).
Compared with other cultures such as grain and corn the vegetable production area amounts to only a fraction (Switzerland: vegetable cropland: 10'000 hectares; grain: 160'000 hectares; corn: 60'000 hectares). Therefore the influence of vegetable production on nature is relatively small in most areas of Europe (exceptions: parts of Spain and Holland).
from greenhouses (conventional and organic production):
vegetables from conventional production (outdoor): -
organic vegetables (outdoor): -
Recommendation: prefer organic outdoor vegetables.
Since the production of vegetarian food compared with food of animal origin (meat, eggs, milk) demands much less land to produce the same amount of food proteins and energy, consumption of vegetables should be increased. This way production pressure on cropland, meadows and pastures lowers, which is advantageous for nature. On the same note, food of animal origin should be reduced. Besides, a diet with only little meat and eggs is better for health (fewer cardiac and related diseases).
|to be continued|
updated November 2005