Program seeks to get religions involved in sustainable farming, food systems

An international program announced Friday seeks to marshal the hearts, minds and buying power of the world’s religious faiths to change farming and food systems seen by many as bad for the planet and people’s health.

The goal is to “shift a billion people into eating, growing, purchasing, investing and praying (toward) a proper relationship with their food and land,” said the Martin Palmer, the secretary general of the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, which is spearheading the Faith in Food program.

Palmer, a regular BBC commentator, archeologist and adviser to the United Nations on climate change, began day three of the seven-day Festival of Faiths, now its 15th year in Louisville, in a panel discussion with fellow Briton Patrick Holden, a pioneering organic farmer in Wales. This year’s theme is Sacred Soil, Foundation of Life.

He said the world’s religions are major economic and environmental players as property owners, investors and consumers. As much as 8 percent of the world’s land surface is controlled by religions, from farms to shopping centers to office buildings. Religious institutions are the world’s third largest investing group.

Many have long withheld investment in businesses that didn’t match their moral interests, he said. Now many are beginning to specifically invest in businesses that do things they like, he added.

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