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July 15, 2005

Food that heats us up

Food 'miles' in the UK have risen dramatically over the past 10 years, are still rising, and have a significant impact on climate change, traffic congestion, accidents and pollution according to a report published yesterday, and reported in today's Guardian. Food transport accounts for 25% of all the miles driven by heavy goods vehicles on British roads. The use of heavy trucks to transport food has doubled since 1974 (in southern Europe, it's growing even faster). The dramatic increase has resulted in a rise in the amount of CO2 emitted by food transport: 19m tonnes of carbon dioxide were emitted in the UK 2002 in the course of getting food to people, a 12% increase on 1992, the report says. Airfreight, the most polluting form of food transport, is growing fastest. Tim Lang, (one of the world's leading critics of industrialised food systems, and author of Food Wars ) is quoted as saying: "If the government doesn't take action to tackle this, all its proposals on climate change will be so much nonsense." A minister called Lord Bach, who launched the report in London, promised that the British government would "work with the industry to achieve a 20% reduction in the environmental and social costs of food transport by 2012". The words 'breath', 'hold', 'your', and 'don't' spring to mind: no British government is going to take meaningful action against an industry that combines food, logistics, massively powerful retailers, and spoiled consumers. We'll have to wait for a couple of massive eco-shocks before the policy framework will change. In the meantime, there's a lot of interesting service design to be done in support of the massive move towards sustainable food systems that is already underway.

Posted by John Thackara at July 15, 2005 07:42 AM

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