A Deforestation-Based Diet : 7 Foods That Are Destroying the Worlds Rainforests

By
Services for Real Estate Pros with Turtle Clan Global

Always on the lookout ...Hope you find this as interesting as I did...

Have a great weekend!

Lesley

Common foods that are destroying the world's forests, from the precious Amazon to coastline-protecting mangroves.

By Rachel Cernansky

food deforestation photo

We hear a lot about the importance of eating organic and eating local, but left out of the conversation are the growing methods of some of our staple foods, and how much forest land has been lost to grow (or raise) products like beef, rice, and palm oil-the latter of which is in more foods than you might realize.

When agricultural land becomes unproductive (usually after about three years), it is often cheaper to clear new land than to fertilize it or replenish nutrients that were drained from the soil. Monocrop agriculture is a major factor in how modern food production has become unsustainable, but coffee and banana production both serve as examples of smooth, successful transitions. They have been drivers of deforestation in the past, but more recently farmers have been using more intercropping and forest cover (ever heard of shade-grown coffee?), which helps to prevent deforestation and preserve biodiversity. This is surely due in no small part to activist campaigns waged in recent years to educate consumers and to generate change in the supply chains.

This is a quick look at common foods contributing the most to deforestation-and as a result, to climate change-around the world.

 photo
iStockphoto.com/Thinkstock

 

Beef

 


Beef is by far the biggest contributor to deforestation, both because of its direct role in forest clearing as well as the land converted for cattle feed, according to Rhett Butler of Mongabay, a kickass site for environmental reporting around the world. Despite efforts to combat deforestation through illegal logging, the Amazon is actually losing forest cover faster than ever, largely due to the cattle industry, which has been growing in Brazil by an average of 3 million head per year since 1974.

 photo
Digital Vision/Thinkstock

 

Palm oil

 


Palm oil production is not only one of the greatest drivers of deforestation-destroying, along with old-growth trees, crucial habitat for the endangered orangutan and Sumatran tiger-it is also one of the world's largest sources of greenhouse gases. One of the more widely reported environmental disasters, deforestation for palm oil plantations has led Indonesia to be ranked the third-largest contributor to climate change. And it's hard to avoid: not only will you notice the ubiquity of palm oil once you start looking, in everything from cookies to bread to baby food, it's often disguised on labels as the generic 'vegetable oil.'

 photo
Greenpeace / Daniel Beltra

 

Soy

 


Covering 11 million hectares of South America, soy is another leading driver of deforestation-not because of some sudden spike in demand by tofu-consuming humans, but because it is used mainly as feed for chickens, cows, and pigs in Europe. Much of the deforestation affiliated with soy is indirect: while soy farmers have done some of the clearing, it's more often that soy is grown on already-cleared land and drives ranchers deeper into the forest.

 photo
iStockphoto.com/Thinkstock

 

Rice

 


Much of Asia's forest land has been converted to rice paddies, not only leading to the universal effects of deforestation such as habitat loss and threatened biodiversity, but these fields are also the largest source of methane produced from human activity. Rice fields emit between 50 and 100 million tons of methane each year, though that amount could be reduced with changes in farming methods such as draining the fields more often.

 photo
Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock

 

Shrimp

 


An estimated 38 percent of the world's mangrove deforestation is linked to shrimp production. Commercial shrimp farms have been developed in coastal regions from southeast Asia to Africa and often displace natural low-lying mangrove forest ecosystems, which are generally regarded as not ecologically important, but which actually protect coastal regions from erosion and storm damage, as well as serve as a natural space for spawning and hatchery-directly and adversely affecting the very industry that is taking their place.

 photo
Jeffrey Hamilton/Thinkstock

 

Corn

 


U.S. subsidies of the ethanol industry have driven corn production through the roof, both in the U.S. and in the Amazon. While that sparked discussions in the U.S. about prices of corn and the ethics of growing food for fuel rather than-well, food, it's also driving deforestation that counteracts any environmental benefits that result from using biofuels instead of fossil fuels.

 photo
AP Photo/Andre Penner

 

Sugarcane

 


Like corn, sugarcane has expanded rapidly in the last few years for ethanol production. Seen as a more efficient source of biofuel than corn, sugarcane has been pushed hard in Brazil, which has gained a reputation as the first sustainable biofuels economy. How sustainable is it, though, if the world's largest rainforest is destroyed in the process?

Related Posts:
New Google Earth Layer Shows Global Deforestation
What's My Cheeseburger Got to Do with Deforestation and Changing Weather Patterns?
Cattle Pastures in Deforested Amazon Now the Size of Iceland

 

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Rainmaker
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Candice A. Donofrio
Next Wave RE Investments LLC Bullhead City AZ Commercial 928-201-4242 - Fort Mohave, AZ
928-201-4BHC (4242) call/text

Most of those foods are not good for you either! Interesting article. It's good to be conscious of the implications of what we eat, both within and without.

Mar 12, 2010 04:19 PM #1
Rainer
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Hope MacManus
Home Finders SVC Real Estate, Florence, OR - Florence, OR

Leslie, thanks for the article.  I'm a vegetarian and a label reader.  The info will help me read labels better at the grocery store and make sure I don't use ethanol gas. 

Mar 12, 2010 04:32 PM #2
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Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

HA!  There's no palm oil in any food I eat.  Fresh fruits and vegetables, home made whole wheat bread, brown rice, natural yogurt, etc., is the way to go. 

Yes, I know I'm obnoxious about diet, but it works.

 

Mar 12, 2010 05:16 PM #3
Rainer
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Lesley Burton-Dallas
Turtle Clan Global - Stratford, CT

Hallelujah sister obnoxious Lenn!

That's the way I roll too!

Mar 12, 2010 05:53 PM #4
Rainer
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Lesley Burton-Dallas
Turtle Clan Global - Stratford, CT

Hi Hope!

Thanks so much for coming by and I'm so happy you found this article useful!

Mar 12, 2010 05:54 PM #5
Rainer
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Lesley Burton-Dallas
Turtle Clan Global - Stratford, CT

Hi Candice!

Yes, I absolutely agree..

I only eat organic local fresh food, and I always buy my eggs from this little farm near where I live in CT where you can see them outside running around looking actually happy!

I don't know about you, but if I eat an egg, I want it to be from a happy chicken's ovary, not a sad- distressed -pharmaceutical filled -caged up on top of eachother-ovary!

Mar 12, 2010 06:01 PM #6
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Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

HA!  Having the ability to "visualize" the interior of my arteries, my only use for eggs is to make Tollhouse cookies and chocolate nut brownies which I GIVE AWAY to the trap buys at the range or to the little ones in my family or TLW.

 

Mar 13, 2010 06:09 AM #7
Rainer
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Lesley Burton-Dallas
Turtle Clan Global - Stratford, CT

Amen, Lenn!

Mar 16, 2010 08:19 AM #8
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Lesley Burton-Dallas

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