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VIDEO: Smart food choices

Many of us think about our food choices in terms of how they impact our personal health, which is significant. But our food choices also greatly impact the environment and the people that grow our food. 

The global food system is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Agricultural chemicals—like pesticides and fertilizers—pollute ground and surface water and contaminate soil. Pesticides harm wildlife, beneficial insects, and soil microorganisms, and poison farmworkers. What’s more, farmworkers that risk exposure to dangerous chemicals while doing the demanding work of growing our food are some of the lowest paid workers in our society. Impacts of our food choices spill over from land to sea, where overfishing can deplete the stocks of fish species— sometimes forever.

The good news is this: many farms, fisher people, and food businesses are increasingly using methods to grow and produce food that limit environmental impacts, support the health and well-being of consumers and producers, and pay fair wages to workers. These businesses often use special labels to communicate their production methods to consumers. From Organic, Fair Trade, Marine Stewardship Council, and Food Alliance Certified, to Non-GMO Verified and Cage Free, you’ve probably seen many of these labels during your last trip to the grocery store. 

 If you’re like most consumers, the number of labels out there can make a simple trip to pick up a loaf of bread feel overwhelming and confusing. Should you choose the Organic whole-wheat loaf or the bread made from locally grown Food Alliance Certified wheat? The truth is that there are no easy answers, and trade-offs are inevitable. The best you can do is seek out the resources and education that you need to be a more informed consumer.  

This spring, in an effort to help the PSU community make more informed food choices, the Sustainability Leadership Center hosted a panel of experts representing three prominent food labels: Organic, Fair Trade, and Marine Stewardship Council. The event was presented in partnership with Campus Recreation as part of the Healthy U Wellness Challenge. This collaboration was an effort to expand our thinking about health and wellness to include the greater food system. The three panelists shared information about the food systems issues that their label addresses, the metrics that products must meet to use their label, and some of the effects the label has had on the supply chain.

Watch a video recording of the panel discussion here:

For more information about other food labels, visit these pages by sustainabletable.org and Tufts University:

http://www.sustainabletable.org/944/these-labels-are-so-confusing
http://sustainability.tufts.edu/decoding-food-labels/