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I'd already seen the DEFRA stuff. You read it, all lined up like this, and you think, wow, yeah, right. But - though there's some truth in it - it's mostly tendentious.

It turns out to be better for the environment to truck in tomatoes from Spain during the winter, for example, than to grow them in heated greenhouses in Britain.

Any winter tomatoes are grown in greenhouses, even in Spain. OK, not heated as British greenhouses would be. But is this a real choice? Are there British greenhouse tomatoes on the market in any great quantity? What's better for the environment, anyway, is not only to consume local spacewise, but also timewise, in other words eat fruit and veg in season. Winter greenhouse tomatoes are rubbish. Why buy them? (Unless occasionally if you must).

it transpires that half the food-vehicle miles associated with British food are travelled by cars driving to and from the shops. Each trip is short, but there are millions of them every day.

Why, sure. So let's truck and fly food in, and people will stop driving to and from the supermarkets?

The whole point made about cars (an SUV with one salad aboard, or people driving around buying stuff from farms, etc) ignores of course that people who choose to buy local tend to be aware of these problems. One trip to farmers' market is better than several to local producers.

Research carried out at Lincoln University in New Zealand found that producing dairy products, lamb, apples and onions in that country and shipping them to Britain used less energy overall than producing them in Britain.

It would, wouldn't it? I have my doubts.

even if flying food in from the developing world produces more emissions, that needs to be weighed against the boost to trade and development.

Righty-ho. This is where we know we're reading The Economist.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Dec 18th, 2006 at 05:00:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, and not to forget that some of the local markets might be in walking distance, or at least in easy range for the bike. These seem not to be taken into account. And maybe it is time to create more shopes were people live, so the can access them without car.
by Fran on Mon Dec 18th, 2006 at 05:12:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is the DEFRA PDF available somewhere? Is there some real data in it or just sentences like above?

As for food transportation, it looks to me that orgnized home delivery tours (may be internet purchases) have the potential to be more transporation efficient than everyone round-trip'ing to the supermarket (unless it is on work-home path).

by Laurent GUERBY on Mon Dec 18th, 2006 at 05:30:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We demolished the "food mile" concept 5 months ago here. I think all you have to do is google:
If you go to google Defra and "food mile" you'll find a recent report showing that "food miles" are an inadequate indicator.
At least it worked for me back then.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Dec 18th, 2006 at 06:06:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First link on google is now the economist article... It's always better to put the link than rely on google :).

It's obvious that food miles is not the right unit since you need to take transporation mode and production inputs into account.

NZ study of the topic (PDF), seems to conclude that for some products it's vastly more energy-efficient to ship them to UK from NZ than to produce them in the UK.

by Laurent GUERBY on Tue Dec 19th, 2006 at 03:56:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There still is hope to eat NZ kiwis in Europe???

Bliss!!

Now, I like this report, but would there be any interest here to do an audit of these findings? Are there elements missing, can we extend the given framework for other products?

by Nomad on Tue Dec 19th, 2006 at 04:47:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can always eat NZ kiwis in Europe. The question is, at what price.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 19th, 2006 at 05:21:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ever since the kiwi issue got flagged at the start of this year, I now feel guilty when I pick up a kiwi, being uncertain whether it's produced sustainably.

Conscious man, conscious!

by Nomad on Tue Dec 19th, 2006 at 06:15:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What does sustainably mean? Sensu strictu, any use of fossil fuels is not sustainable, but using no fossil fuels is an absurd requirement.

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 19th, 2006 at 06:25:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In that definition, only a speck of total production is produced sustainably nowadays...

In the kiwi-case, I was thinking of an alternative kiwi produced somewhere closer to the Netherlands than NZ (which is probably Everywhere Else). That would make the description perhaps: less un-sustainable.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 19th, 2006 at 06:34:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
More sustainable, less unsustainable, more acidic, less basic, more europhilic, less eurosceptic...

Those whom the Gods wish to destroy They first make mad. -- Euripides
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 19th, 2006 at 06:36:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But less un-sustainable does not equate to more sustainable!
by Nomad on Tue Dec 19th, 2006 at 07:28:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
saving fossil oil products for rarer uses, like lubrication, and using more renewables for transport, heating etc.

it's about having a sense of proportion, isn't it?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Dec 19th, 2006 at 07:35:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I didn't read in details the 117 pages PDF but it looks like that it's mainly use of fertilizer and industrial diary food (forage and cereals) that causes UK production to be more "inefficient" carbon wise (see table page 61).
by Laurent GUERBY on Tue Dec 19th, 2006 at 05:21:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So what happens if we take those out of the equation? I need to copy the spreadsheet when at home...

Too bad that they didn't take kiwis as example...

But I like the set-up, very bookkeepish. It looks superior to considering just foodmiles as metric.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 19th, 2006 at 06:27:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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