September 30, 2021

Do You Know Your Blue Food?

Posted on September 30, 2021 by Robin Kundis Craig

If you’re like me, the phrase “blue food” conjures images of the decidedly unnatural blue raspberry flavor found in slushes, sports drinks, and “gourmet” (their word, not mine) jelly beans and lollipops. However, environmental lawyers should be aware that Blue Food is the emerging movement seeking to ensure that all food policy, including the environmental and climate policies surrounding food, take account of the importance and potential benefits of aquatic foods—fish and shellfish, both marine and freshwater, together with more culturally specific aquatic delicacies such as kelp and sea cucumber.

The Blue Food Assessment launched September 16, 2021, with a one-hour webinar, a new report, and five peer-reviewed articles in Nature and Nature Food. The Assessment’s focus is on using aquatic foods to help bring about the transformation of the global food system to end hunger while increasing sustainability. As the new report announces:

There is growing recognition that food systems must be transformed—that achieving the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) requires shifting toward a system that is more diverse, resilient and just, as well as healthier. “Blue foods”—foods derived from aquatic animals, plants and algae cultivated and captured in freshwater and marine environments—have much to offer in that transformation.

The Blue Food Assessment promote five key categories of actions (Report, p. 9). First, governments and other actors should manage blue foods as an integral part of food systems, not as siloed afterthoughts. Second, governments should identify and reform policies and practices, like subsidies to other industries, that impede the transformation of food systems to include blue foods. Third, governments should protect and harness diversity for nutrition, accessibility and environmental sustainability, such as “by fostering the development of species and systems that offer affordable, sustainable, climate-resilient nutrition that meets local demand.” Fourth, the role of small-scale actors is critical and should be supported. Finally, governments need to recognize that food access and security is a human rights issue and commit to using food policies as a tool for recognizing and increasing human rights, especially among women and indigenous groups.

ACOEL Fellows may be particularly interested in the multi-author Nature article on “The Environmental Performance of Blue Foods.” Noting that the global food system is a major driver of climate change but that blue foods are often left out of the picture, the article provides a standardized assessment of the environmental impacts of 23 species groups of blue foods across several parameters, including greenhouse gas emissions, water and land use, and nutrient pollution, all conveniently compared to chicken production.

SPOILER ALERT: A lot of blue foods, both wild caught and aquacultured, are better for the planet (and for you) than chicken. (Beef, of course, was out of the running from the get-go.)

Welcome to the Blue Food Revolution!