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Food products and their effect on our environment

 Often times, we have visited markets, Supermarkets and other shopping centers in search for food but rarely do we think about the components of these food items and worst still the impacts they impose on our health and environment. 
    On Thursday, February 6th 2014, NatureUganda organised a public talk held at Uganda Museum. The public talk was delivered by Prof. John Muyonga, the Dean Prof. MuyongaSchool of Food Technology Nutrition and Bio-Engineering at Makerere University, gave an absolutely educative and informative yet very entertaining public talk on whether the choice of what we eat can help save the environment.
    His presentation, titled "Food Products: The Pros And Cons To Our Health And Environment", attracted a large audience and inspired a lively discussion. The discussion highlighted concerns on how human behaviour can be tamed to accommodate a healthy body and clean environment. Click here for the full ppt presentation.
    In the opening remarks, the Ag. Executive Director Mr. Michael Opige said that cattle have had enormous impact on climate change. He said that there is increasing atmospheric concentration of methane. He also noted that ruminant livestock can produce 250-500 liters of methane per day. This level of production results in estimates of the contribution by cattle to global warming that may occur in the next 50-100 years to be little less than 2%. He also said that sugar cane farming is a major contributor to loss of biodiversity due to agro-consumer preferences, land fragmentation, and climate variability.
    Prof. Muyonga said that the nutritional requirements of an individual depend on their sex, age, physiological condition, activity, health, among other factors. He said that poor nutrition results in weakness, nutrient deficiencies and that it leads to impaired immune system poor ability to infections.
    He observed that over weight is associated with disease conditions such as diabetes, cancers, and coronary heart diseases and noted that men with 'bellies' are overweight. He stressed that cardiovascular disease alone amounted to 30 % of deaths and that the global burden of diet-related diseases is expected to climb to 57 per cent by 2020.

    He added that food production has impacted immensely on the environment whereby agriculture uses 40% of the world’s land and 70% of its fresh water. This has led to encroachment on natural ecologies including forests and wetlands which has led water to be polluted by agro-chemicals, leading soil degradation and chemical alterations. He pointed out that biodiversity loss and its habitat have majorly been caused by clearing grasslands and forests and draining wetlands. Sugarcane is associated with highest biodiversity loss than any other crop in the whole world which has also led to destruction of habitats and invention of invasive species.
    He cautioned that eating healthy while conserving the environment should include consuming ecologically friendly foods, for instance, less meat and more plant based foods. People should consume locally produced foods, minimize consumption of processed or preserved foods, minimize waste, choose food with minimal packaging, and adopt sustainable food production methods.


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