What are food miles? - http://web.archive.org/web/20080307061635/http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/food_matters/foodmiles.shtml Thanks in part to concerns about climate change, more people are stopping to consider the impact that everyday goods - including food - have on the environment. Food miles, the distance food travels from field to plate, is a way of indicating the environmental impact of the food we eat. Half the vegetables and 95 per cent of the fruit eaten in the UK comes from beyond our shores. Increasingly, it arrives by plane - and air travel gives off more CO2 than any other form of transport. Agriculture and food account for nearly 30 per cent of goods trucked around Britain's roads and, according to a Government report in 2005, the resulting road congestion, accidents and pollution cost the country £9bn a year. The end of the road for food miles?
”While the idea of food miles has become common currency, many other processes contribute to the carbon footprint of our food” The term 'food miles' was coined in the 1990s by Dr Tim Lang, professor of food policy at London's City University. While the idea of food miles has become common currency, many other processes contribute to the carbon footprint of our food. Agriculture, processing, storage and the way we shop all have to be factored into the bigger carbon emissions picture. Together these factors combine to make the food we eat responsible for a third of UK households' impact on climate change. Air grievance
The most contentious food miles are clocked up by the fresh fruit and vegetables arriving by plane from across the globe. Reducing the carbon footprint of food is not as simple as choosing not to buy fresh fruit and vegetables flown in from Africa or South America, however. Although air-freighted produce accounts for less than one per cent of total UK food miles, it is responsible for around 11 per cent of the total CO2 emissions from UK food transport. That's because transport by plane generates 177 times more greenhouse gases than shipping does, for example, and it's the fastest-growing way of moving food around, according to latest figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The most recent increase is affected by imports of animal feed from Brazil and the USA, but it is the green beans grown in Kenya, 70 per cent of which are destined for UK supermarkets, that draw much of the anti-air freight fire. Because of concerns about the carbon emissions generated by air-freighting, Marks and Spencer and Tesco now label fresh produce flown in from abroad with a sticker depicting an airplane. Miles in the balance
Others believe that highlighting the fact that the food is air-freighted can demonise such produce and threaten the livelihoods of some of the world's poorest people, who are dependent on exporting by plane. The £200million fresh fruit and vegetable trade with the UK supports one million people living in Africa. To support environmentally friendly food production without unnecessarily harming vulnerable developing economies, the Soil Association has decided that, in order to qualify as 'organic', all air-freighted food will have to meet ethical trade standards from 2009. Incidentally most Fairtrade fruit, such as pineapples, bananas and mangoes, is transported by sea. Lorry loads
Food transport is responsible for 25 per cent of the kilometres clocked up by HGVs on our congested roads. Supermarkets have national distribution systems, so even food grown near a particular branch may have travelled by lorry to a central depot and back to its place of origin. Ingredients used in the food processing industry travel around the country from factory to factory before reaching the shops. All these journeys around Britain mean that HGVs transporting food transport are responsible for a quarter of CO2 emissions. Car culprits
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