EUROPE’S FOOD SUPPLY:
NEED TO GO LOCAL
The food supply system in the European Union needs to take more into account the environmental problems related to Food Miles. The UK is here taken as an example…
Food transport has a significant and growing impact on road congestion, road accidents, climate change, noise and air pollution…
- foods get imported and exported for no other reason than to obtain the subsidies - often one country imports a similar amount of produce as it exports. Transport costs and subsidies are wasted for no result other than enriching those on the top of the food chain;
- in 1998, Britain imported 61,400 tonnes of poultry meat from the Netherlands in the same year that it exported 33,100 tonnes of poultry meat to the Netherlands. Britain imported 240,000 tonnes of pork and 125,000 tonnes of lamb while it exported 195,000 tonnes of pork and 102,000 tonnes of lamb. Why this happened?
- milk and cream, which were until few years ago, sourced on a national if not local scale, are presently transported in large quantities within Europe. Over 7 million tons of these products were moved between EU member states in 1999. Additionally, imports and exports from outside the EU amounted to 98,000 tons and 1.3 million tons, respectively;
- The Food Miles Report by the SAFE Alliance highlighted the animal welfare and environmental impacts of intensive livestock production in Europe. The UK exports just under one million sheep a year for slaughter, many being sent all the way to Italy and Greece, and the figures are rising;
- the EU also imports large quantities of meat and live animals from South America, Eastern Europe, and Africa. In 2001 the EU also exported 874,211 tons of live bovine animals and meat to the rest of the world. This trade is cruel – animals are often in a pitiful state by the time they reach their destination – and there are risks of developing and spreading diseases;
- in early September, home-grown seasonal fruit and vegetables like apples, onions, carrots and green beans were available throughout the country. But so too, according to a recent survey, in three central London supermarkets, were apples 4,700 miles from the USA, onions over 12,000 miles from Australia and New Zealand, carrots from South Africa (51,000 miles) and beans from Kenya (3,600 miles);
- by analysing foodstuffs, farming methods and transport policies, professors Jules Pretty, of Essex University, and Professor Tim Lang, of City University, in London found that if all of our food came from within 20km (12.4 miles) of where we live we could save £2.1bn (€3bn or US$3.65bn) a year in environmental and congestion costs. They also found that if shopping by car was replaced by bus, bicycle or walking, these savings would amount to a further £1.1bn (€1.58bn or US$1.91bn);
- the study, in the journal Food Policy, found 28% of all freight on the roads of Britain is agricultural produce. Not only is more food being transported by road - up by 23% in 20 years - but it is being carried 65% further than it was in the 1980s. In effect, Professor Pretty said, Britons are paying 3 times for their food: once at the supermarket till, twice in costs to the environment and the third time in farming subsidies.
- according to a report published in July 2005 by the British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA); the environmental and social costs of the impacts are estimated at £9 billion (about €13 billion) per year with more than 50% due to road congestion. Consumers travel an average of 898 miles (1,445 km) a year by car to shop for food and the quantity of food transported by heavy goods vehicles has doubled since 1974;
- food transport now accounts for 25% of all Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) kilometres in the UK. The report also suggests that transport of food by air should be monitored because it has the highest CO2 emissions per tonne and is the fastest growing mode. Its use more than doubled between 1992 and 2002 and it now accounts for 11% of CO2 emissions from food transport.
- environmentalists are calling for more locally sourced produce and action to reduce UK food miles. Comparing some foods, which travelled from field direct to farmers’ market or farm shop, with the same products air-freighted to reach your supermarket shelves from overseas, researchers from the UK NGO Sustain found that the carbon-dioxide emissions associated with distribution were 650 times lower when food was bought locally from a farmers’ market. The ingredients for an air-freighted ‘Sunday lunch’ create 37 kg of greenhouse gasses but when bought from local farms only 58.2 grams of greenhouse gasses are released – a reduction of 99.8%;
- in response to the recent report about the environmental and social impacts of rising food miles, food and farming minister Lord Bach commented to the Guardian UK that the government will work with industry to achieve a 20% reduction in the environmental and social costs of food transport by 2012.