Sample Nutritional Essay Paper on Importance Of Sustainability Information In Dietary Guidelines

Should Dietary Guidelines in the Future Include Information on Sustainability?

Globally, dietary habits are increasingly changing. Most people are etching towards more
processed foods. As the world trends towards unhealthy lifestyles, the environment is ailing.
Agriculture has been intricately linked with environmental degradation (Tilman and Clark,
2014). It is a large contributor of the GHGs emissions (Carlsson-Kanyama and Gonzalez, 2009).
Production of food has also occupied most of the earth surface area, to feed the ever-growing
human population. Eshel and Martin (2009), affirms that as more land is put into agriculture use,
the effects on the environment escalate. This paper tries to assess the problems of agriculture
production and dietary changes to the environment. It also shows the importance of rendering
information on environmental sustainability, when dietary guidelines are given.

Major strides have been made in the agricultural industry. This has facilitated faster and
easy production of food, due to the increased mechanization. While these have ensured food
security, it has caused detrimental impacts on the environment. To begin with, agriculture uses
vast water resources to aid in irrigation of different crops. While in the past, agriculture
depended wholly on rainfall, times has changed. For instance, in the United States alone, 80% of
the water used is used to irrigate croplands. Other impacts of water usage in agriculture on the
environment include groundwater pollution, wetlands loss, water logging and salinization of the
soil, over drafting of aquifers and runoff (Marlow et al, 2009)
Due to the heavy mechanization in agricultural production, there has been intense
consumption of energy to run the machines. Marlow et al (2009) argues that the energy
efficiency in agriculture varies with the crop variety produced, chemical inputs used and

geographical location. Besides use of energy by the farm machines, a substantial amount of fossil
fuel is utilized to reach farm products to the market. This implies more GHGs release to the
environment as the food is produced in the farms and during its transportation to the consumer.
Carlsson-Kanyama and Gonzalez (2009), advise that a life cycle assessment on various crops can
be done to determine the energy used throughout the chain their production.
To ensure that agriculture produce grows effectively, producers have been forced to
apply the chemical fertilizers. The soil is no longer fertile enough to handle crop production.
Chemical fertilizers are then seen as the best option over organic manure, which takes a long
time to mature and the process of making it, is cumbersome. In the U.S alone, use of fertilizers
has been increasing tremendously, to be precise 10% yearly since 1950s. Phosphate and
potassium are produced from petroleum, which are non-renewable. This means more pressure on
the already-dwindling energy resources. Fertilizer application also affects the soil fertility. It kills
the important microorganisms in the soil, responsible for the production of nutrients. The
chemicals are also released to the atmosphere and to the surface water as well as to the
groundwater (Marlow et al).
Heavy pesticide application, which characterizes the agricultural production, is another
major factor for environmental degradation. Pesticides have become a necessity in crop
production. However, even with the intensified pesticide use, about 37% of crop produced is lost
to pests, in America. This is attributable to the monoculture cultivation practice. Effects of the
intensive chemical use include surface and groundwater pollution, impacts on the non-targeted
species, bio-magnification, and persistence in the environment and the enhanced pesticide
resistance in pests (Marlow et al, 2009).

According to Marlow et al (2009), animal production is the main culprit in waste
generation. As more animals are raised to meet the demands of people for meat and dairy
products, more waste is released to the environment. Increased livestock production has
deleterious effects on air, water and soil. The animal production has also been plagued by intense
use of chemicals. Hence, the waste generated contains phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium.
Eshel and Martin (2009), argues that the mentioned nutrients, which also comes from fertilizer
application cause eutrophication in the seawater. As the algae dies off, it settles at the bottom of
the sea, utilizing available oxygen to the detriment of the organisms living in the ecosystem.
Land degradation is another notable effect of agricultural production. More cropland is
cleared every year to give room for more production. By doing these, ecosystems are disrupted,
which creates confusion in the natural order. About 70% of the earth’s dry land is placed under
agriculture. The land is divided between animal and crop production. From the Food
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations report, animal production takes the lion’s share
of all the land under anthropogenic use. Agricultural production leads to clearance of vegetation
and forests to pave way for farming whereas animals have large impacts on the soil, through
compacting. Besides, when they are kept in large members, they release methane a member of
GHGs into the atmosphere (Marlow et al, 2009).
From the above account, it is clear that the modern agricultural production, which is
driven by dietary changes, can have detrimental effects on the environment. Hence, it is crucial
that sustainability is encouraged in the whole process of food production. As Tilman and Clark
(2014) observes, there are three common trends today in as far as nutrition is concerned. First,
there is increased demand for the animal protein. This means more livestock production to meet
this gap. There is also an urge towards empty calories; these are from refined fats and sugars, oils

as well as alcohols. Lastly, there is a trend buying more food than necessary, which end up in the
bin or simply demand for total calories.
Kanyama-Carlsson and Gonzalez (2009) warns that these trends have varying effects on
the environment. For instance, cereals, fresh vegetables and legumes, which are regarded as
healthy and vegetarian diet, present lower GHGs emissions. On the other hand, the transportation
of fruits and meat, are high contributors of GHGs. Fish, eggs and frozen vegetables, lies
somewhere in between.
While agricultural production has negative impacts on the environment, it is important
for the survival of humankind. To save planet Earth for future generations, there is a need to
strike balance. The farmers should be given information on how to produce food, without
causing problems to the environment. Organic farming, better methods of transporting fresh
foods, alternatives to animal protein, should be encouraged, to ensure sustainability (Kanyama-
Carlsson and Gonzalez, 2009).


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