Food miles

Food glorious food!
Food miles
Food production has increased significantly mainly as a result of an increase in the number of people living on the planet. The quest to increase food production worldwide – whether out of necessity for survival or to sell to areas where food items are desired, but otherwise unobtainable all year round – has had significant
impacts. These can be categorised as environmental, political, social and

A food mile is the distance that food items travel from where they are grown to where they are eaten.
A carbon footprint is the amount of carbon generated by things people do, including creating a demand for out-of-season food.

Why is global demand for food increasing?
The increasing global population – more people means more food has be
produce to feed them
In poor countries local people go to the local market and most of the food
is produced in the poor country
In rich countries people want a wide range of foods at different times of
the year. This means getting food which is often ‘out-of-season’ and has to come from other countries. This means strawberries from Spain in December.
The photograph shows strawberries being grown intensively. The intensification of agriculture has been key in enabling the world to grow enough food for its people. Intensification involves using machines, growing plants very close together, fertiliser being sprayed on crops, grown under plastic, no people.

Environmental impacts of growing more food to meet demand
the demand for out-of-season food means we have to fly food in from abroad
like apples. This leads to releasing more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and contributing to global warming and air pollution
carbon dioxide released from road transportation of goods
storing food such as apples. Apples are harvested in September and October
and kept under cold storage for the rest of the year (this gives out lots of
CO2) when they are required to be sold in February and March
desertification where the land turns into desert as a result of agricultural
Overcultivation and overgrazing – see powerpoint at bottom of the page
Monocultures – growing only one type of crop in a field for many years will
reduce the nutrients the plants needs, therefore reducing the yield of that
Irrigation – water from a river is pumped onto a field to help increase the
yield of the crops
Salinisation – through poor irrigation techniques water is left on top of
the soil. When this evaporates, salt is left behind and over time the
concentration builds up which can reduce yields.

Growing food on marginal land
Example of both political & environmental impacts:
Political impacts cont.
• This mainly arises from the hostilities associated with water
• Mainly in areas of water stress – these are areas with little water – desert areas – Saharan Africa and the Middle East
• Irrigation uses a lot of water – this reduces the amount of water in rivers and groundwater stores
• People other than farmers have less water to drink and for business
• The water would then need to be rationed
• In areas where global warming is causing temperatures to rise more water will
evaporate, there could be less rainfall and ultimately less water for people to
• There could potentially be wars in the future over the use of water in Egypt, Kashmir
and Pakistan
For more details on water war click on the link below:—case-study-18—water-issue.html
Economic impacts
Social impacts

Buying locally produced food
In the UK, farmers benefit from local people buy food they produce and there are arguably more widespread economic, social, political and environmental benefits. Buying from local, or indeed regional or national sources, should benefit the domestic farming industry and address environmental concerns.

In the UK, we can ensure that we support local producers by:
looking at labels in supermarkets, which increasingly give the specific origin of foods visiting specialist local shops
buying online from ‘local’ producers
supporting local farmers’ markets
attending regional agricultural shows, which celebrate and sell local produce