Most people are aware that our diets affect our health. But the food choices we make also carry significant environmental costs. And like many environmental impacts, these are not properly calculated into the cost of food. Pesticides, herbicides and other toxins used on large agro-businesses affect not only the health of the ecosystem but also the health of the consumers. Farms are also a large source of greenhouse gas emissions because many of today's agricultural operations are petroleum based. Machinery, transportation, and fertilizers all require significant fossil fuels.
Moreover, waste generated by livestock and the digestive process of ruminant animals also produces a significant amount of methane, which is a greenhouse gas more powerful than carbon dioxide. Land degradation from overuse and mismanagement also contributes to soil erosion, soil infertility, and the disappearance of natural habitats. Agriculture is a major player in the loss of biodiversity, which results from changes in land use and the monoculturization of agriculture.
Locally, the most significant concern from agriculture is runoff pollution into the Chesapeake Bay. Rain and irrigation create runoff of pesticides, fertilizers, sediment, and animal waste into the bay. This leads to a degradation of water quality, which in turn negatively affects the ecosystem and the quality of our drinking water.
As world population and food demand continue to increase, how can we make our food more sustainable? Check out our Solutions Page for ideas about how to get involved and to make a difference in your community.