Every Thursday evening at 8pm EST is #WellnessChat held via Twitter. And the first Thursday of each month, Andy Bellatti always shares his wisdom on a variety food topics. Here is the transcript of the chat. There is some incredible info here, so please read and share with your friends, neighbors, strangers!


January 3, 2013

Topic: ethical & sustainable food choices

When talking about food systems, it's important to consider environmental and human impact of agriculture & food production. Unsustainable food systems take a toll on local communities, ecosystems, and farm workers. ‪ Over next hour, I'll focus quite a bit on issue of farmworkers' rights, which is too often left out of ethical eating conversations. Sustainable agriculture respects – rather than disturbs – existing ecological balances. ‪ I want to begin by going over some crops that have sketchy ethical issues. I'll help you make more ethical choices, too. Let's begin with chocolate/cacao. Options range from the very unethical to the very ethical, if you know how to shop for it. Child slavery rampant in cocoa-producing countries like Ghana & Ivory Coast. Great journal article: There aren’t “slave-free” certification seals on chocolate packaging, but I have two good resources for you. ‪ For ethical & slave-free chocolate, check out this list and this scorecard Ethical Eating FYI: As a general rule, chocolate derived from the Ivory Coast is produced with slave labor. ‪ Due to weak regulations in cocoa-producing countries, pesticides banned in US commonly used in cocoa farming. Choose organic.

PS: you can add Rain Republic to the list of ethical chocolate.

Now let's talk about another controversial crop when it comes to ethics -- palm oil. ‪ Palm oil is bad news from environmental standpoint (responsible for massive deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia). ‪ As if environmental concerns not enough, human rights violations also common in palm oil plantations Palm oil used in many vegan products. This handy list from ‪@FoodIsPower helps you to avoid Before I move on, here are 2 great links to find ethical chocolate: one and ‪ two ‪

Now let's talk about coffee. A beloved beverage with many ethical & sustainability implications!‪ One eco-concern with many conventional coffees: Agricultural expansion has led to severe deforestation in rainforests. ‪ Shade-grown coffee does not destroy or disturb existing ecosystems; preserves crucial biodiversity. ‪ Find retailers in your state that sell bird-friendly coffee ‪ From economic/social justice standpoint, Fair Trade guarantees coffee farmers are at least paid fair wages. ‪ List of Fair Trade coffee brands FYI: Fair Trade certification isn’t absolutely perfect, and has its share of detractors. Read & decide. Also important to economic justice is direct trade coffee, purchased right from farmers ‪I know that Stumptown, Intelligentsia, and Counter Culture offer direct trade coffees. ‪ With so many coffee certifications, good to know which are important & which are “eco-washing”.

Let's now talk about issues that affect farmworkers (as well as current events & good organizations). ‪ @Barry_Estabrook's book, "Tomatoland" touches on issues of farmworkers in South Florida. A great read. ‪ In "Tomatoland", Estabrook explains environmental ills of South Florida tomatoes (most grown there during winter months). ‪ South Florida soil very nutrient deficient. Tomatoes need massive amounts of chemical fertilizers. Terrible for farm workers. And, as Estabrook points out, many South Florida farmworkers also live in virtual slavery. Heinous. ‪ Some food service companies taking steps. See BamCo’s agreement re: South Florida tomato workers Coalition of Immokalee Workers (‪@ciw) does terrific work on behalf of many farmworkers. Check them out ‪ Last year, Coalition of Immokalee Workers reached agreement with Chipotle. This was a HUGE victory. CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) are unethical operations on many levels. ‪ As this article points out, CAFOs terrible for workers, the environment, animal welfare, communities: According to report, 25% of workers at confined animal feeding operations experience chronic bronchitis. ‪ Farmers have very important voices. I've met so many great ones at markets in many states. ‪ Workers in meat-packing plants suffer repeated trauma injuries at rates far higher than other industries. ‪

More info on how workers in CAFOs are in deplorable conditions & much more prone to injuries United Farm Workers is also a great organization. Check out their work & campaigns Sign of a broken food system: most farmworkers can barely afford the produce they pick. ‪ Many farmworkers are migrant and undocumented. This sets up a very unbalanced and unjust power dynamic. ‪ This ‪@grist article touches on what 2013 could bring for farmworkers ‪ "Farmworker rights" are, first and foremost, human rights. ‪ You know how today we found out Hormel (maker of Spam) bought Skippy? Behold their awful labor practices  "Cheap food leads to environmental degradation & social injustice, destroys social/ecological foundation of future." J. Ikerd ‪ Good read. ‪@FoodIsPower on why Coca-Cola, Nestle, Monsanto are some of most unethical food companies ‪

The folks at ‪@eatsustainable have great primers about various issues re: sustainable/ethical eating ‪ Some ethical issues have arisen now that quinoa's popularity has skyrocketed ‪ I think the best solution to alleviating issues in Bolivia due to "quinoa boom" would be to grow some here in US. ‪ If quinoa can be grown in other places, people in Bolivia won't have to export all of theirs & will be able to eat it. Oh! FYI: Hemp is one of most sustainable foods. Doesn't require pesticides; can grow in difficult climates. ‪

Greater awareness = better choices. Whenever possible, think “What's most ethical food choice I can make at this given time?” And, it goes without saying that GMOs are the antithesis of sustainability. They are also detrimental for food sovereignty. GMOs essentially keep developing countries trapped in a cycle of poverty, keep them hostage to Big Ag. ‪

What are top 3 pesticide offenders among vegetables? ‪See EWG guide

Here is some quinoa grown in Colorado


Cover photo courtesy of: Eden Hensley Silverstein