Whys and hows of sustainable food in European countrysides
Wide-ranging debate spans climate, health and rural livelihoods
Rural topic(s): Local food Chains
Date of writing: September 13, 2012
Author(s) of the proposal: Sabine Bonnot
Sabine Bonnot, a farmer of organic cereal for bread-making and fruit, lays out the arguments for growing and consuming food more sustainably, an approach that is key for the future health of rural areas and those who inhabit them.
A former agri-chemist with experience of working in Japan, the United States and several European countries, Sabine contrasts the effects of conventional, chemical farming with those of the alternatives. She highlights the hidden energy embedded in conventionally grown food, not least the several litres of oil used to grow, process and transport the food each person in Western economies ingests daily.
More alarming still, according to Sabine, are the effects of unsustainable food consumption on public health, where the problems include declining fertility rates and increasing obesity, food allergies and cancer. On the latter, the number of people suffering cancers has jumped 250% in the last 30 years in Western societies, making it the number one killer in those countries. As far as France is concerned, 1,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed each day, with 450 of those affected dying within five years. A third of the deaths are caused by cancers related to the digestive system, a statistic that gets little airplay in the media or in public debate.
Her suggested solution presents a menu of responses. They include encouraging people to eat more organic produce, to reduce their meat consumption so as to curb the wasteful production processes associated with stock farming, to favour locally produced food over alternatives from further away and to cook at home with unprocessed ingredients rather than buying ready-made meals. In the process, they will help rural small-holders such as Sabine to survive and thrive.
Bonnot is an organic farmer herself and president of GABB32, working directly on bringing together rural stakeholders who may not traditionally have talked, let alone acted together on common issues. Sabine also works on water and health issues with the Fédération Nationale d’Agriculture Biologique (www.fnab.org)
Author visit on September 5, 2012 that included extended conversation, questioning and video interviews in the context of the Sustainable Mystery Tour 2012.
Sabine Bonnot, a small farmer and president of GABB 32, the association of organic and biodynamic farmers in the Gers.
Maison de l’agriculture,
32003 AUCH Cedex