Many of us love to go out and eat, or cook experimental dishes at home. However, we don’t realise where our food comes from, or what our food – crops and animals meant for human consumption – feeds on before it ends up on our plates.
Recent research suggests that most of our food ingests the prevailing air pollution. Just like us, plants and animals too are products of their environments. If that environment is polluted with toxins, it impacts the health of the food we eventually consume.
Agriculture is the single largest contributor of ammonia pollution and emission of nitrogen compounds. This affects the capacity of the soil to sustain plant and animal productivity. The boom in agriculture products in the last few decades has further increased the emissions in producer countries. Nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds are a major concerns for global food security as these compounds react to form ground-level ozone that penetrates into the plant structure and destroys its ability to develop. Some crops have been found to be more sensitive than others to ozone exposure. What’s more disconcerting is that most sensitive crops like wheat, potato and rice are all staple foods for the majority of the world’s population.
Fisheries too are affected as the air pollution gets diffused as acid rain into the rivers, degrading the habitat and endangering species already vulnerable because of overfishing and climate change. Globally, up to 20% of human protein consumption comes from aquatic animals and fisheries are a major source of income and jobs for many communities around the world.
United Nations has estimated that the meat industry generates 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Farms produce significant air pollution in almost every stage of their operations, starting from the feed needed for the animals. Nitrogen fertilizers used to grow the feed produces nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas that causes nearly 300 times more global warming than CO2. Manure from the animals emits ammonia, methane, CO2, and other pollutants.
It’s time we ask ourselves the important question: What does that mean for us?
In a world faced with unrest and uncertainty, global food security is an additional driver of turmoil. Research on the impact of air pollution indicates the increasing risk of global food security.
Human beings play a major role in destroying the purity of our environment, and making it unsanitary through our activities. Besides, whatever we do to harm the environment always comes back to haunt us.
Let’s pledge to do our bit in reducing our multiple indulgences, if only for our own good.