Cool! The 100 Mile Diet Author blogged my question!

5 06 2007

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It is true – I am a blog geek and an enviro geek to boot. So when I read the 100 Mile Diet and emailed the authors a burning question I was richly rewarded with an answer! Yeah!

I’ve cut and paste the post but you can view the original plus the 100 mile blog here……………..

Mailbag: Distant Soy or 100-Mile Cow’s Milk?

JUNE 4, 2007–Emily wrote in with a tough puzzle, rather like having to figure out who would win a fight: a polar bear, a killer whale, a lion or a black mamba? There are a thousand variables to take into account, and it all depends on your environment. For instance, a killer whale beats a lion in the water, but on land? Not so much. Soy versus milk has its own difficulties.

Emily of Vancouver wrote:

I am a sustainable event planner and my mandate is to be as sustainable as possible but I’m stumped around the ecological footprint of milk vs. non-dairy alternatives. Which has the lesser footprint – local organic milk, or no-cow soymilk? I can’t find any information on whether the popular Canadian soy brands use Canadian soy beans in their manufacturing.

When I researched the possibility of eating soy for the 100-Mile Diet, I called a bunch of Vancouver tofu companies. All got their beans from Manitoba, Ontario or Quebec. I would suspect soy milk to be the same, but you would need to call these companies to find out. It’s unfortunately true that this type of information is not readily available. We’ll have to show them we care so they start to make that information public.

The ecological footprint issue does become tricky – if local, organically raised cows are grazing on natural pastures, in many ways that is a small ecological footprint – though complicated by whether or not that land could have been used to feed more people by growing other vegetable crops for direct human consumption.

Soy shipped from thousands of miles to the east has its own environmental costs – but if you are vegan for animal-rights reasons, that is not a moral stance I would seek to change. So, if you go for soy . . . just make sure it’s organic, and not GM (genetically modified). Canada was the world’s third-largest producer of GM crops in the world (though the main crop here is canola) in 2003, according to a University of Richmond study. As a starting point, Vancouver-based So Nice uses certified organic and non-GM soy.

You could always try growing your own beans! In the Union Square farmers market in New York, we saw soy products made locally from beans grown within 100 miles, and we were intensely jealous. In our region, Saltspring Seeds sells soy seeds, though I don’t know if they would work for milk purposes – I would recommend talking to the knowledgeable staff there. It would be interesting to experiment with seeds from eastern Canada or Japan. We can all be agricultural Robin Hoods – by helping to preserve natural heirloom seeds against the technological onslaught. -ADS

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