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Food for thought, in 5 tasty GreenBiz videos

Whether it's rampant food waste or the carbon footprint of meat, there's plenty to chew on at the holiday table.

Thanksgiving is a time to commune with loved ones over a scrumptious feast, mulled spirits and three helpings of dessert, awash in a holiday glow.

But there's plenty to be glum about when it comes to the systems that put the food on the table — such as the large carbon footprint of industrial meat, the decimation of pollinators and the dichotomy of hunger and obscene food waste.

You may take comfort in (or distract yourself) by complicating the conversation a bit. These five videos from recent GreenBiz events cover a range of food dilemmas — and thankfully, solutions. They may cook up new thoughts, reheat debates on long-congealed opinions, or at least provide conversation fodder for Turkey Day that does not involve the president-elect.

1. How a simple piece of paper can transform our food system

FreshPaper serves an Indian folk remedy long used to prevent indigestion.

Fenugreen founder and inventor Kavita Shukla shared her remarkable story of the spice-infused sheets of paper that keep food fresh by inhibiting bacterial and fungal growth. From being inspired by her Indian grandma’s "magic mixture" to getting her product into Whole Foods nationwide, Shukla described her quest to make fresh food more accessible at GreenBiz Forum in NYC in 2013.

2. Finding common ground for GMOs, conventionals and organics

How can organic farming scale? A panel at VERGE 2014 in San Francisco brought together experts from opposing ends of the GMO debate.

Monsanto's Chief Technology Office Robb Fraley and organic food cultivator Matthew Dillon from Seed Matters (an initiative of the Clif Bar Family Foundation) found some middle ground. Each made clarifications about farming techniques and terminology that are often famously confused, such as the fine line between advanced breeding and the genetic modification of organisms.

"In the organic community, we're working to dispel the myth that organic farming is farming the same way Grandpa used to," Dillon said. "Organic agriculture is also large-scale producers in the U.S. and Canada growing 2000 to 3000 acres of grains."

3. Denis Hayes has beef with the modern food system

"Other than human beings, cows did more than anything else to shape the contemporary United States," said Denis Hayes, an original organizer of Earth Day, at VERGE 2015 in San Jose, California.

Hayes' book "Cowed" charts the history of cattle up to serving as staples of the all-American diet. Today, livestock accounts for about 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and cattle for 65 percent of that. Red meat is linked to a higher risk of heart disease and some cancers, not to mention ailments such as antibiotic-resistant diseases.

Emphasizing the power of the Big Food lobby, Hayes urged consumers to limit beef intake to a half-pound per week and shop for grass-finished, USDA-certified organic, antibiotic-free and certified humanely raised beef.

"Be just like you are with wine," said Hayes. "Be selective." 

4. Do we need to drop our beef with... beef?

The beef and cattle industry has been a target for environmentalists, especially those who already abhor eating meat. At GreenBiz 2015 event in Phoenix, Arizona, rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman argued that that beef isn't all bad for the planet.

"What I'm arguing in my book ("Defending Beef: The Case for Sustainable Meat Production") is that we actually need these grazing animals as part of the food system, and that they provide very healthy, nutritious food," she said.

"We should have very diverse diets with lots of fruits and vegetables. I think meat, and beef especially, is a very healthy part of that diet. I don't think we need to eat more of it."

However you make your plate, Niman will give you something to chew on.

5. Copia's logistics solution to hunger

40 percent of the food we produce globally goes uneaten. Can technology, touted as a savior in so many other instances, provide a solution?

Komal Ahmad founded COPIA with the goal of efficiently distributing some of this food that otherwise would go to waste. The COPIA app allows companies and organizations with surplus food to connect with non-profits that distribute the food to those in need.

"It’s not a scarcity problem here, which most people think hunger is. It’s a logistics problem," said Ahmad during a GreenBiz Studio interview at VERGE 16

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