Plants Hurting the Planet

To be fair, it’s not their fault. These crops alone don’t hurt the planet. It’s overproduction that does. I don’t know much about these topics yet so I’ll cite some articles and sources that do!

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#1 Tofu- Actually not all that green!

Soy is a complicated little bean. In an individual’s diet, it can be a healthy source of protein and fiber. But as a global commodity crop, it can leave a devastating environmental footprint. I took my questions about soy production to Professor Rosamond Naylor, director of Stanford’s Center for Food Security and the Environment. She told me that problems with soy come from relatively recent changes in how and where it is grown. We’re not just talking about hoards of vegans who want their soymilk: Today, most of the 260 million ton global soy crop is fed to animals or converted into biofuels. Today, more than 90 percent of the soy grown in the United States has been genetically modified, primarily to stand up to common herbicides. And as the crop has become increasingly valuable on global markets, vast areas of tropical forest and savannah, especially in Brazil, have been clearcut to make way for horizon-spanning plantations.

In 2011, genetically modified (GM) soy was the leading genetically modified crop globally – occupying some 185 million acres of land area, or nearly twice the land area of California. GM crops make it easier for farmers to produce an abundant harvest. The problem is that extensive GM crop use is actually an environmentally dangerous practice. When farmers’ fields are home to only a single crop, farmers are much more susceptible to disastrous crop failure—if a pathogen infected the soy, the entire crop would be gone.  Creating strains of soy that are resistant to herbicides can also cause farmers to use more of those herbicides to combat weeds that develop an herbicide resistance. Residues from these chemicals can remain on the plants and have been linked to severe health problems for farm workers, and potentially for consumers. GM crops also make farmers dependent on the agricultural biotechnology companies that synthesize their seeds. Unfortunately, the world’s largest producers of soy—the United States, Brazil and Argentina—rely heavily on GM soybeans. Check out the Nitty Gritty answer for more on the environmental and health impacts of GM soy.

Deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and Brazilian savannah (or cerrado) is an equally disturbing problem driven by soy production. The United States and Brazil are fighting for the lead in the global market for soy, and Brazil has relied on cropland expansion to increase their production levels.

Destroying these biodiversity hotspots means losing the many native plant and animal species, like the jaguar, the fox-like maned wolf (depicted), and the hairy-eared cerrado mouse, which thrives only in these habitats. Deforestation also means chopping down photosynthesizing trees that regulate our atmospheric carbon. Soy production that drives this land conversion is certainly not environmentally friendly. The key to eating the right kind of soy is choosing soy products that are produced locally and organically. These local, certified-organic products are not contributing to Amazonian deforestation and are guaranteed to be GM free

Alumni, Stanford

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#2 Almonds- Remember how we don’t eat honey because it exploits bees? You  might want to switch to soymilk cashew or coconut milk.

While many fruits and vegetables can be pollinated without bees, almonds require honey bees for pollination. If there are no honey bees, there are no almonds.

80% of the world’s almonds are produced in California. Commercial pollination of almond trees takes place over a span of 22 days in February. This is an impossible task for local bees to complete: there are too many trees to pollinate and too few bees. To pollinate the trees, almond growers must import bees from all over the country.

In 2006, a million bee hives were loaded onto trucks and brought to California to work for the almond growers. That is around 40 billion honey bees. Half of all the honey bees in the USA, trucked from all across the nation to perform slave-labor in California’s almond orchards.
For 2011 it is projected that 1.7 million hives will be required. 70% of the US honey bee supply.

The bees are fed high fructose corn syrup to combat fatigue and ensure the hives can perform their orchard duties. Researchers are still undecided as to how harmful this is to the bees.

Further, the annual communion of bees has led to the spread of bee diseases and parasites across the country. The bees gather in California, swap all that is communicable, and then return with their hives back to their home states. This is a possible factor the colony collapse disorder (CCD) that has been plaguing bee colonies in recent years.

almonds are not vegan (& so aren’t you)

To be honest I don’t take this site incredibly seriously. You can tell it was created by a meat eater to disprove the vegan philosophy via our love of almond cheese and almond milk (a low blow) but non the less it was a good overview of what happens to our poor bees.

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#3 Palm Oil- Last but certainly not least awful.

Palm oil is the source of MAJOR deforestation and animal death. Horrific animal death, hundreds of Orangutans among various other animals being burned alive a week. It’s a sneaky ingredient- disguised as palm oil, palm kernel, palm kernel oil ect. and is in about 50% of packaged products. It is the most widely used vegetable oil in the world.

Try to avoid products containing palm oil and be on the lookout for palm oil in disguise — it is often listed in ingredients as:

• Palm kernel oil

• Palmitate or palmate

• Elaeis gunieensis

• Hydrated palm glycerides hexadecanoic

Ingredients likely to have palm oil in them are listed as:

• Anything containing stearate, stearyl, cetyl, or cetearyl

• Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulfate, or Sodium Dodecyl Sulfate

•(SDS or NaDS) Sodium

• Calcium Stearoyl Lactylate Steareth -2

• Steareth -20 Emulsifier 422, 430-36, 465-67, 470-8, or 481-483

One Green Planet

Again, it isn’t just the Orangutans palm oil is hurting. 300 football fields of the Amazon is destroyed per hour just for it and it affects hundreds of animals, including these-

And I know vegan diets have a lot cut out of them already. You’re not a bad person or any less of a vegan if you decide not to cut out or cut down on palm oil almonds or soy. But if veganism is about animals and the planet, and if you can, why wouldn’t you want to?

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