Food demand influences agricultural production. Modern agricultural practices have resulted in polluted soil, air and water, eroded soil, dependence on imported oil, and loss of biodiversity. The goal of this research is to investigate the environmental impact of pesticide and fertilizer application, water consumption, and energy used to produce commodities for a vegetarian and non vegetarian diet in California. The working assumption is that greater number and amount of inputs are associated with greater environmental impact. The literature supports this notion. To accomplish this goal, dietary preferences were quantified using the Adventist Health Study and state agricultural data were collected and applied to commodity production statistics. These data were used to calculate the difference in consumption patterns between the two diets and indices to compare the environmental impact associated with inputs for the two dietary patterns. In addition, the results for the Adventist vegetarian and non vegetarian diets were compared to the production inputs for the production of an average American diet. Results show the Adventist vegetarian diet required 5.41 times less water, 2.48 times less primary energy, 12.9 times less fertilizer, and 1.4 times less pesticides than did the Adventist non vegetarian diet. The Adventist non vegetarian diet required 1.99 times less water, 1.82 times less primary energy, 2.10 times less fertilizer, and 1.43 times less pesticides than did the average American diet. It is clear that the production of a SDA non vegetarian or average American diet requires the inputs of significantly greater amounts of water, primary energy, fertilizers and pesticides when compared to the SDA vegetarian diet. The greatest contribution to the differences came from the consumption of animal products, eggs, broilers, and beef in the diet. From an environmental perspective, what a person chooses to eat makes a difference. Viewed form the individual lens, the difference in the dietary choices of the SDA vegetarian, non vegetarian and average American do not appear to support profound conclusions. However, with the added perspective of time and numbers the differences become quite pronounced and may have the potential for tremendously different impacts to the environment.
School of Science and Technology
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Date (Title Page)
Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings
Agriculture -- Environmental aspect; Agriculture -- United States -- California; Pollution; Pesticides -- Environmental aspects; Vegetarianism; Seventh-day Adventists.
Loma Linda University Libraries
This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.
Marlow, Harold J. Jr., "The Environmental Impact of Dietary Choice and Agriculture in California" (2006). Loma Linda University Electronic Theses, Dissertations & Projects. 718.
Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives