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The Real Deal with Beans

March 14, 2020 11:29 AM
By Suzanna Austin in GLD Challenge magazine 2019-20

facebookI have a serious issue with beans; soybeans, fine beans even vanilla beans. I know what you are thinking and contrary to popular belief the issue I have isn't with the effects of eating additional fibre. No, my issue is about how green an option they really are. To be fair my issue doesn't solely rest with the legume family, they are just the better known of the criminal enterprise that can masquerade as 'good for us'.

Years ago, most people really didn't consider the human impact of food - it was just food. Then along came Fairtrade, Traidcraft and the likes and we became more and more aware that all food wasn't grown equally - at least not in how the growers were re-numerated (or not) and the conditions that workers were having to endure. Not so long after learning the dirty secrets of the chocolate trade and how we treat children in one place to the detriment of children's treatment in other places we all become conditioned to checking how other staples such as coffee and tea were traded. We became awake to how livestock was reared and kept a look out for giveaway logos on packaging giving us cuddly assurances that all was good. So, here is the big question, if we care about the impact for the person growing the food and the impact on food itself why do we not question truly the impact on how it is grown?

Recently we have become aware that when it comes to plant milks almond really isn't that great and oat seems to win hands down. Look a little deeper and it isn't that simplistic, a lot depends on how the oats or in this case almonds were grown, the farming methods used the production methods employed and packaging utilised. In short it is a multitude of mitigating factors built into food production that could have the greatest overall impact.

Recent research on 40 different food items looking at the overall impact of the food on the environment does just that. The researchers Poore and Nemecek discovered that the environmental impacts of two seemingly identical products on the shelves could vary 50-fold.

Whilst producers can be incentivised to use less environmentally impacting practices much lies with consumer choice. Is this a case for food labelling to indicate, maybe in a traffic light system, the environmental impact of a product?
When water shortages, deforestation and greenhouse gas production are key drivers in climate change is it not sensible that we should have a choice whether so called healthy food is a healthy choice for the planet?

Suzanna Austin

Research and article by Poore and Nemecek can be accessed here :

Background data highlighting the environmental challenge of the soya industry can be found here:


Challenge 2019-20 Front Cover - Green Liberal Democrats' Magazine (Wikimedia and George Miles)

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From GLD Challenge Magazine 2019-20