Jonathan Foley: The other inconvenient truth
Watch the BBC One programme: Crop to Shop: Jimmy’s Supermarket Secrets with it’s case studies of potatoes grown in the Egyptian desert, beans grown in Kenya and peppers grown in the Netherlands.
2. Environmental consequences of increasing international demand for raw materials.
Case study A – Cut flowers from Kenya sold in international markets
Case study B – Deepwater Horizon disaster
Summary of the disaster – Horizon 2010 Deepwater oil spill case study
3. Food miles
Food miles are defined as the distance food travels from where it is produced to where it is eaten. In many LEDCs people are subsistence farmers so only eat products that they have produced themselves. However, as countries develop people start expecting a greater variety of foods and they expect foods to be available all year. These changes in taste, coupled with the improvements in transport and refrigeration have drastically increased food miles.
It is possible to transport many food products by road, rail and ship as long as they have a long shelf life e.g. dry pasta, rice, tins, cereals, biscuits, wine, etc. However, it is necessary to transport perishable products like fruit and vegetables by air. Air is the most polluting form of transport and contributes significantly to the greenhouse effect. In the UK it is estimated that 1% of food is transported by air, but it accounts for over 11% of carbon emissions (http://www.soilassociation.org/).
However, some people say that it is far too simplistic just to look at the number of food miles when calculating the environmental impact of food. People argue that it is environmentally more sustainable to grow tomatoes in Spain than the UK because it is not necessary to heat greenhouses. It is also argued that it is better to grow rice in a tropical country like Vietnam than trying to grow it in the US. To look at a food’s entire environmental impact from planting to eating is known as life cycle analysis.
4. Environmental consequences of air increasing volumes of air freight
“Food miles are not a reliable indicator of environmental impact.” Discuss this statement. [15 marks]