24 July 2006

Food Miles

To paraphrase Grease, food miles are the word.

Food miles are the distance that food takes from field to plate.

We can't eat whatever we want, with no regard for seasons or regionality. It's self-centred to think that, well, we need tropical fruit year-round, no matter what the impact on the environment. It doesn't produce good tasting food, either. Produce has to go on long journeys, it's harvested before its ripe, it's overchilled, and then, it's overpackaged.

It means encouraging local fruit and veg shops (like Jo. Richards) to support local farmers, or looking into organic vegetable box schemes that source from England, or buying only fruit and vegetables from a few counties away when in Saino's, Tesco's or M&S.

Sustain has a lot of good information on this issue:

In the UK the five largest retail chains account for 80 per cent of the market, and their marketing decisions have a massive effect on the producers, other retailers and the environment. The supermarkets exert a virtual monopoly over many towns and villages, so many consumers have little choice but to shop at the major multiples. The supermarkets' drive for efficiency, their central distribution systems, overseas sourcing and the expansion of their retail area incur costs to the environment and society which are not accounted for. At a European level, there has been a huge push for an expanded road network which has been supported by major international and European food companies. As a result, plans by the European Commission for the Trans-European Network (TEN) will cost up to $580 billion over 15 years. This will result in more and bigger roads, which will facilitate the expansion of multiple retailer dominance over smaller independent operations. The large-scale retailers - with lower prices that are partially the product of hidden transport subsidies - will draw customers from ever further away and dependence on the car will grow. The expansion of the European Union into Eastern and Central Europe will further increase food miles. The European Commission's own impact assessment suggests that the planned doubling of the motorway system alone is expected to lead to the demise of 1,000 small villages throughout Europe.


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