People usually associate environmental damage with big factories with fume chimneys, wildfires, or oil spills in the ocean; but the truth is that industrialized agriculture is one of the biggest environment destructors. This fact is as shocking as ignored by many people, and in the environmental world ignorance is one of the biggest problems.
Jungles and rainforest are being wipeout to give space to more profitable plantations like corn, wheat, soy, and many others. It is not a surprise to say that these are all key ingredients in the production of processed foods. Why would we preserve a rainforest that is hard to give an economical price tag when we can harvest that ground for a sure-to-make profit?
Processed foods are not only bad for the environment but also to our health. These foods are usually made to last longer or to give the food an edge flavor that will make it taste better to the consumer. They have a really high content of sugar and of high fructose corn syrup, also this type of food contains a high number of artificial ingredients. They are heavily loaded with sugar to make them “hyper-rewarding foods”. These foods are addictive to our bodies, people can become literally addicted to these foods to the point where their bodies crave them. (4)
Other health issues with processed foods are that they are very low in fiber and nutrients but are high in refined carbohydrates. This contributes to a fast digest process in which we do not use much energy and due to the fast process, we get hungry fast again that leads to keeping us consuming these cocaine-like foods. (4) Long-term effects in our health have not been fully discovered yet, but we are learning more and more about them. For now, it has been proven a lost in long-term memory and insulin resistance. These are associated with the high contents of sugar and it derives.
Getting people to learn about the problems of processed foods in regards to environmental damage will greatly help the cause. Once people start learning about it they can react and stop buying these products, a lowering of the demand for processed foods will lead to lower supply and this will finally cause lower production. This decrease in production will leave more natural habitats untouched or at least decrease the processing of many fields.
Another, more economical, solution to this problem can be sugar taxes. The majority of processed food products contain a huge amount of sugar. By taxing sugar products, the same chain of events would occur as in the case explained before; it starts with raising the price, this leads to a lower quantity demanded, this means lower quantity produces that translates to a decrease in the production of the products. This policy has already been proven to work, in early 2017 a sugar tax was imposed on the sales of sugary beverages of about 10% of the price on Berkeley, California. This showed a reduction of the total sales of these drinks of about 10%. This policy also made the sales of water bottle raised by 15.6%, this could mean that the reduction of the processed foods sales also translates to an increase on healthier and more environmentally friendly products. This is also important because it shows that by reducing the sales of these damaging products we are not damaging the economy but shifting the consumers’ preferences. (2)
There are many different ways that the problem with processed foods can be targeted; these options can go from policy-making like tax implementations or tariffs to a more social response, where by informing the public about the issues and consequences of buying and consuming these foods we expect a decrease in its consumption. Processed foods discussions are taking place more and more often, but it is still not enough and it is hard to escalate these discussions because of all the money the processed food industries invest in lobbying and other shady practices to stay at the top. Like with many other environmental topics there is still a long way to go, but little by little people are joining this campaign and trying to make a better word for us and our future generations.
- Benson, Jonathan. “How processed food contributes to massive rainforest destruction and environmental damage.” NaturalNews, naturalnews.com/038004_processed_food_rainforest_destruction.html.
- Boseley, Sarah. “First US sugar tax sees soft drink sales fall by almost 10%, study shows.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 18 Apr. 2017, theguardian.com/society/2017/apr/18/first-us-sugar-tax-sees-soft-drink-sales-fall-by-almost-10-study-shows.
- Decker, Fred. “Processed Food Definition.” Healthy Eating | SF Gate, healthyeating.sfgate.com/processed-food-definition-2074.html.
- Gunnars, Kris. “Nine ways that processed foods are harming people.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, 1 Aug. 2017, medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318630.php.
- Haspel, Tamar. “Processed foods: The problem probably isn’t what’s in them. It’s what’s not in them.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 24 Apr. 2014, washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/food/processed-foods-the-problem-probably-isnt-whats-in-them-its-whats-not-in-them/2014/04/24/93e60a4e-c3f2-11e3-b574-f8748871856a_story.html.
- Moss, Michael. “The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 23 Feb. 2013, nytimes.com/2013/02/24/magazine/the-extraordinary-science-of-junk-food.html.