The Global Supermarket & Food Miles
What's it all about? (updated)
July 2012 Update:
Regardless of your position on climate change, 2012 has seen the jet stream sitting south of it's usual position and the fluctuation in weather and rain since April has made growing very challenging. With April. May & June in the UK reported as the wettest on record, and July heading the same way, food miles might be the only way to make up any local shortfall - the question is, what happens if weather variations in other countries affect their growing and harvests? Mid July sees reports of the jet stream moving north again - it will be interesting to see what happens.
Our supermarkets are well stocked, but how long will this be sustainable given the details outlined by the latest climate change reports from the IPCC?
Fruitwise just planted-up
From July 2005 DEFRA report:
Food transport has been increasing steadily over the last few decades. This has direct negative impacts on sustainability (congestion, accidents, road maintenance costs, greenhouse gas emissions, noise and air pollution), and these impacts are significant at a national level.
The Global (Super)Market & Food Miles
There is an argument that buying produce from other places supports the growers in the countries, but, unless it is specifically marked as 'Fair Trade', given what I've read about the way supermarkets have treated farmers in the UK, It would be easy to assume that the only people really 'supported' are corporations who own farmland and big supermarkets who can pressure growers into selling in bulk at low prices.
Fair enough, some crops cannot be grown in the UK and the only way to get them is to import (e.g. I can't see us growing lychees anytime soon).
As for food miles, well, Spain is not far away; but if you read what is happening there, illegal bore-holes are being used for 'farms' to produce things like strawberries for consumption in Northern Europe without any regard to the effect on the water-tables in Spain.
Are food miles important?
Of course, thinking of distance is not the only factor to consider when talking about food-miles, there are many interrelating issues and there is much more to think about than simply saying that food that travels a long way is not good. That would be a simplistic way of thinking.
Some of these things are discussed in the DEFRA report (link at bottom of page).
Regardless of the arguments about transporting food long distances, we think food we've produced ourselves and eaten freshly picked tastes better than food that has been transported halfway round the world and then stored in a low oxygen atmosphere for who knows how long before it reaches a supermarket shelf.
Is it worth thinking about?
We are not suggesting that people give up things like pineapples etc, nor are we arguing that everyone should become self-sufficient in vegetables or that it is bad to import non-local produce.
What we do think is that it is worth considering where food comes from, the impact of it getting to us, and what might happen if something stops it getting to us.
Plus, we like cooking and eating so ingredients are important to us! :-)
It just seems that as well as ethical, environmental and economic reasons for looking into ideas about food, from a purely practical basis, the ability to grow some of your own produce seems like a good idea.
© Copyright wildchicken 2007
Garden Article List
wildchicken start page