23 Mar 2008

Food miles increasing, planet being killed more quickly

Etihad Airlines increased its 3 times per week service from Sydney to Abu Dhabi to a daily service, with cargo flown out from Sydney 80% perishable produce including frozen meat, fruit and vegetables From http://www.rosebridger.net/

The truth is simple. Food is being flown, driven and shipped further and further every single day. The globe is being organised as one corporate supermarket and local is being annihilated for profit. There is a huge investment in physical infrastructure, the building of new airports, runways, depots and refrigeration units.

Uniform and all round the year...carrots, potatoes, cod, asparagus. Asparagus from Mexico is to be found in British supermarkets if you pop in this week.

Madness in terms of climate change and you guessed there is a huge propaganda effort spearheaded by the British government to defend it.

You will not hear Ministers discuss the growth of transport infrastructure or the absurdity of flying fishing into British airports!

Its all about soft selling the growth of air miles. Rhetoric is used with sharp skill to make the unacceptable something to celebrate...we in the UK still have the government that lied over WMD to justify the war in Iraq. Tony Blair is the mother of several 100,000 dead children, Gordon Brown's govenment are hardly going to object to airport expansion whatever the consequences.

In the words of Gareth Thomas, Minister for Trade and Development, speaking at a recent Department for International Development air-freight seminar: 'Driving 6.5 miles to buy your shopping emits more carbon than flying a pack of Kenyan green beans to the UK.'

Yes driving to the supermarket is a waste of resources but it only seems to bother Minister as a handy bit of discourse to promote more environmental destruction...the Brown government are hardly promoting an alternative to Tescopoly.

So yes, lets eat in season, lets go organic, lets us pluck herbs from the window sill and above all lets go vegetarian.

Out of season, intensively produced crops are not arguments for increasing food miles.

Food miles are not the only factor we need to look at but, facts are being muddy so we don't look at the extraordinary growth of air freighted food.

There is an excellent article analysing this from Rose Bridger here:
While the media fixates on the rise in, and environmental impacts of, passenger flights, worldwide air cargo is rising faster and a lot of the development at airports is cargo related. Worldwide, the largest and fastest growing air cargo sector is ‘perishables’ which means cargo that requires temperature control.

Industry estimates for the annual increase are creeping upwards from about 10%. About 80% of this perishables sector is food and flowers. Most of this is primary produce, but processed foods is a growing sector and encompasses everything from trimmed vegetables or peeled and diced fruit through to highly processed chilled products such as ready meals. As always, the food chain is complex to unravel, and air freight is not as direct as claimed. There are often connecting flights and distribution is entangled with the geographical dispersion which affects the food chain generally.

The great Mike Small, I did a lot of work with his brother Patrick in Bristol way back, is perhaps the most inspiring example of someone who has tried to put Murry Bookchin's social ecology into action, good to see this about his families efforts in today's Observer:

Mike Small and his wife, Karen, sat down last Thursday to a dinner of smoked fish pie crusted with mashed potato and served with purple-sprouting broccoli, an unremarkable family meal except for one key factor: every ingredient came from sources close to their home in Burntisland, Fife. 'The fish was Fife-landed, while the potatoes and broccoli were grown on nearby farms,' he says.

Nor was this a one-off culinary event. For the past six months Mike and Karen and their two children, Sorley and Alex, have consumed only food and drink bought in their home district.

This is the Fife Diet, developed by Mike Small as a response to the environmental dangers posed by carbon-emitting imports of Peruvian avocados, Kenyan green beans, New Zealand lamb and all those other foreign foodstuffs that now fill the shelves of our supermarkets. Each of these imported products involves the emission of carbon dioxide from the planes and ships that brought them to our shores.
From here

The Observer newspaper is promoting food mile denial, in 2003 it promoted war in Iraq!

Happily its mag has a great section on growing food, I wonder whether the Observer magazine, in contrast to the paper, had a column against murderous war in 2003, I would love to know.

To know exactly where your food comes from and how it has been raised is a rare thing today. To see seedlings develop and respond to your care is a process that has a certain alchemy. It is also a rewarding educational process. Looking after the soil and understanding its importance as the foundation from which everything else comes - knowing when to prick out, when to pinch out and when to water, learning how to keep an eye out for pests and diseases - are what makes the final produce that much more appealing. What is more, home-grown vegetables, fruit and herbs are chemical- and packaging-free, and food fresh from the ground is full of life and vitality. It is tastier, crisper and sweeter. You also learn to appreciate the importance of eating in season, with the earthy flavours of broccoli, turnips, leeks and kale in deepest winter, followed by the intensity of warm tomatoes, basil and bowlfuls of the tastiest salad at the height of summer. Most importantly, by having to engage with the changing seasons and the cycle of growth, harvest and death, the year is marked, celebrated and honoured, and few things are more gratifying.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I wrote a paper attacking the food miles approach to agriculture. Find it here:


I'd appreciate any feedback if you have any,



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