Nutrition and the environment: a general reflection

Spread the love

As you know, we are currently living a decisive period for the respect of biodiversity and the limitation of global warming. I have already had the opportunity to write several articles on the links between food, nutrition and the environment. Personally, it was when I started teaching the theme of global food issues 2050 at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in 2014 that I got really interested in this subject, so fascinating but so complex, systemic and interdependent. However, the situation has accelerated in recent years and the data in the scientific literature are increasingly precise, although alarming (to say the least). I am therefore currently working on an in-depth analysis of the available data, certainly more than I have ever done on any subject, because in my opinion this is the key issue for the years to come. I will have the opportunity to present the results of my analyzes to you soon, but I would like to share with you here a form of general, even general, conclusion with regard to nutritional news and the media cacophony. on the subject. I hope that this sharing of thoughts will bring you a complementary perspective to the one you can often hear and suggest that you too become a Positive Nutrition Hummingbird.

In view of all the studies mentioned from the start on the effects of agriculture, one thing in common emerges: the disparity in results. Some rely on the large share of livestock in GHG emissions to advocate a completely plant-based diet. Even if the living conditions of intensively farmed animals are unacceptable, even if the way of raising and feeding them increases the negative effects on the nutritional quality of meat or milk, increases the risks of antibiotic resistance , emits greater quantities of methane, alters biodiversity, soil quality and their acidification, the fact remains that livestock has its place in agriculture. Beyond its socio-economic impact on farmers all over the planet, consuming quality meat can be integrated into a balanced food model, or even improve the nutritional status of men, like the increase in omega 3 content by adding flax or rapeseed in animal feed. Extensive breeding, based on quality food and decent living conditions for the animal, has a positive effect on the environment, including on soil fertilization. It is this method of farming that we have every interest in integrating into the food life cycle, that we must promote by supporting local farmers acting in this direction and by adopting a frank posture, that of refusing an agro-food industry. and large distribution motivated by excessive economic profit. It is up to everyone to consider whether the consumption of animal products is unacceptable for ethical reasons or, on the contrary, a source of pleasure and conviviality. It is up to everyone to place their own cursor where they think they are most in balance.

The same is true of culture. We have seen how complex the question can appear at first glance. The interest of organic food is obvious, whether it is for cultivation or breeding. Maintaining a crop rotation that respects the land, reducing or even eliminating the use of pesticides and fungicides, chemical fertilizers responsible for eutrophication and soil erosion, deforestation intended to free up land to produce GMO soy in particular, deserve to be supported by our food purchases. It is true of our human health, but also (and above all) of that of other living beings and of the planet. However, this solution is not sufficient to meet environmental challenges on its own. Without any other agricultural development, a 100% organic diet indeed confronts the planet with questions relating to yield reductions, changes in land use, and major weed management constraints, in particular concerning cereal crops. In addition, choosing to consume food of organic origin without being aware of having to limit this choice as much as possible to products of local origin and from short supply chains, without refusing industrial organic farming, is nonsense, an absurdity. Changes in cultivation methods must be associated with a strong reduction in meat consumption and waste, but also and above all with a general and massive reform of the agricultural model. Agroecology and permaculture represent in this sense major levers, incredibly powerful for reconciling nutritional and environmental issues. They represent a hope that we must build on right now. However, an analysis of the scientific literature reveals that few studies are currently available on the subject. Fortunately, individuals did not wait to prove by empiricism that this agricultural, even social, model is virtuous, like Perrine and Charles Hervé-Gruyer of the Bec Hellouin farm. Like many others, they understood, acted and demonstrated that the systems approach is THE solution.

After having analyzed and explored every corner of the dietary factors that can act on the environment and on health, in the most objective analytical manner possible, I always arrive at the same result: common sense. The one that nature has established, that it orchestrates in an extraordinary way and that it uses to respect the fundamental principle of life, of balance. Whether we are talking about homeostasis at the scale of just one of our ten trillion cells, or even the intestinal microbiota, the soil or the planetary ecosystem, our archaic objective will always remain to stimulate our evolution through micro-mismatches, but controlled and respectful of nature. The notion of interdependence is essential. None of our cells can guarantee the maintenance of our health on its own, it needs the specificity of all the others. The same is true for agriculture. We cannot design a resilient and sustainable food system without allowing it to interact positively with its environment.

Such an observation therefore leads to a reflection that we must have as a collective certainly, but which belongs to us as an individual, as a hummingbird. The question of free choice of food is totally legitimate when it concerns us on a personal basis, especially since the act of eating has an unparalleled social and emotional dimension. Yes, it is possible to maintain an adapted nutritional status by being a vegan or consuming meat. However, this choice will require adjustments that are all the more demanding as it is focused on one or the other of the extremes. It belongs to us simply accept that the further we move away from homeostasis, the greater the adaptations will have to be. The question of food choice nevertheless appears more complex when it concerns the scientific body in charge of establishing nutritional recommendations. As long as they are associated with a search for hidden profit, often under the impetus of powerful lobbies, with a political purpose or simply carried by a respectable conviction but powerful enough to guide the results of studies without considering all the data objective, these choices can become dangerous. Dangerous because they stimulate a system of beliefs towards most people who do not have access to exhaustive and critical information. Nothing is easier than directing results in the world of nutrition. However, this system, beyond maintaining a nutritional cacophony and guiding purchasing behavior, is the dreg of misinformation, even dogmatism and the loss of discernment, because it takes us away from homeostasis. Of our principle of life. The total control of the diet within the framework of a clinical study, sufficiently long, exhaustive and massive, is today impossible. At least, it is difficult enough not to be democratized. Let us keep this prerequisite in mind to remain humble in the face of current knowledge.

If you want to (re) discover some of my articles on the subject, here are the links:

The Positive Nutrition Food Pyramid

Are you a Positive Nutrition Hummingbird?

How to become a Positive Nutrition Hummingbird?

Insect proteins, an alternative to animal proteins?

Also discover my e-books intended forflexitarian diet or vegan.

Anthony Berthou