Friday, February 9, 2007

Food Miles

Food Miles - an appeal to Consciousness !!!

The word “foodmiles” has become so popular recently that one who does not know its meaning can be called a typical ignoramus in any assembly. Ignoring food miles and living a life as usual (how he lived and thought five years back) may qualify him to be a “carbon culprit”. Before describing foodmiles author requests the reader to read the story of ten pounds of fish caught in North Sea off Great Britain.

Ten pounds of fish caught from the North Sea off Edinburgh Britain was first frozen, brought to land and packed, taken to the London airport, flown to Beijing China, taken by road to a remote village some where in China, processed and packed, then taken back to Beijing, and flown back to London, transported by road to a department-store at the coast where it was landed as a fish. When this packet of processed fish reaches the dining table of Mr. Wilson-the actual user, it may just be a 2000 calorie food equivalent to five pound of fresh fish with a price-tag hundred times it original prize!

“Food miles” is called the distance the food has traveled from its point of production to the food plate of the family which originally consumes it. In the case of Mr. Wilson it is several thousand miles. As technology, logistics and mode of transport advances foodmiles increases proportionately. What value addition Mr. Wilson got? His food lost its nutrients, freshness and the bill he had to pay- a hundred times bigger.

The bourgeoning cost of fuel and the disastrous effects of vehicles on the environments have made people realize their mistakes. The awareness towards wastages of energy for unnecessary transportation of food items (food miles) is a recent positive development. It is estimated that the foodmiles has increased about 15% from 1992 to 2002 the real tragedy is that the pace of this increase of food miles is on the rise, 2002 to 2012 may witness a 20% increase! This is the real issue.

About 30% percent of the vehicles plying in the roads are engaged in carrying food or related items –of which 50% is avoidable with a simple change in the lifestyle. The polluting eco-unfriendly packaging materials, for the transportation is another thing that is causing head ache to local bodies.

Big technological changes have made it possible to airlift as much quantity of materials required (including food) to a nation that has the power to pay, and such facilities have destroyed the local community of farmers and those who lived doing jobs affiliated to farming like transporters of producers and vendors etc.

All these technologies logistics etc are no free meals, they are all energy guzzlers. Oil is to aircrafts like liquor to alcoholics; all the fuel in the world will not be enough to feed the ever increasing number of aircrafts that crowd the skies.

As per Britain’s National Consumer Council, 10% of the carbon dioxide emissions come from the food that is being flown in, the NCC compares the fuel required for transporting one carton of fruits from New Zealand to Britain as equivalent to 11 school runs (use of vehicles by parents to take children to schools).

Please listen Mr. Bill Vorley who claims that the concept of foodmiles has absolutely and rightly entered in to the consciousness of the people of Britain (Bill Vorley is the head of the “Sustainable Market Group” at the British International Institute for Environment . The British are going green if their shopping trend is any indication. When compared to the big brother Britain is only a small fry. The real polluters are bigger ones who has not joined the food miles band wagon. This means food miles has a lot of miles to go.

Agreed Britain is a smaller nation but for it the size had never mattered in the past, with the same size they built an empire without a sunset and great language with a still greater literature. Britain will wield the baton in showing right path to other biggies who pollute more. The whole world, reeling under global warming is in the lookout for a savior let that be Great Britain. Let food miles go longer miles! Let the icebergs of Antarctica remain as icebergs.

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