Thursday, May 11, 2006

Food miles

Last night, I went to a screening of the documentary "The Future of Food" at the Princeton Human Rights Film Festival. The post-film discussion touched on a variety of subjects including the issue of "food miles": how far food travels.

The common statistic is most food in N. America travels 1500 - 2500 miles to reach your plate (it comes partly from the study Food, Fuels and Freeways done by the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State). There is a lot more research on this in the UK because the government realizes reducing "food miles" is way to become more energy efficient and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There's an interesting article in the journal Food Policy that reports the full costs of travel for the average weekly food "basket" in the UK. The BBC website has a good introduction to the issue.

Here, there is a lot you can do. As I mention on the what you can do section of my website, we can cut down on the energy used in transporting food - from the farm to the processing center to the distributor to the grocery store to your home - by purhcasing from local Community Supported Agriculture farms, farmer's markets and grocery stores specializing in local and organic produce. Beware of the organic produce from another continent. Sure, maybe no pesticides were used to grow those oranges, but the fruit didn't fly to the shelf on its own.

1 comment:

Jason West said...

This was a great movie - really well done and addressing really pressing issues around genetically modified foods, which have come onto our store shelves (and spread genes through the natural envrionment), with very little public debate or knowledge.

I had never felt so strongly that what's in our collective best interest has been hijacked in the name of profits for a few powerful corporations. We need to make labeling of GMOs in food a priority.

One link that isn't made often ... as we now talk about increasing production of ethanol and biodiesel, we can expect that to raise pressures to develop GMO crops well suited for energy, and unless there are some big changes, we can expect the corporations to gain much more than the family farmer.