When you visit your local supermarket, you will be amazed to find a variety of vegetables, greens, and fruits next to each other. But do you realize, just like the processed food aisle, most of these veggies and fruits are not grown in the very city, or state, or country you live? Some of them would have traveled a very long distance to reach you.
According to a 2016 study done by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, around 70% of worldwide food supplies cross at least one national border before landing on a plate. But how is this affecting us or our climate? And should we bother about this?
Real Cost of food?
In recent years, with the growing concern towards climate change and the impact of agriculture on it, many of us are trying to reduce our carbon footprint, especially when it comes to food we consume. Reducing processed food items in our diet or buying natural foods or by going plastic-free, we are trying to take all the measures to minimize the production of greenhouse gases. Although these actions result in a small decline in the adverse impact caused by food production on the environment, we still have to deal with food miles, which are the next major contributor to our increasing carbon footprint when it comes to food consumption.
The term “food miles” refers to the total geographic distance food is transported between their cultivation, processing, and to the consumer at the point of sale. It is a way of measuring how far your food had to travel to get to your plate. The more food miles that attach to a given food, the less sustainable and the less environmentally desirable that food would turn out.
Food travels, so what?
Having a diverse variety of food is perhaps helped many Indians in tackling the nutrition deficit that their diet had, but the idea of food moving on a globalized scale is alarming.
While some will argue that bulk-transported food produces less greenhouse gas emissions than buying local, it is worth thinking about the long-term impacts of industrialized farming. To meet the humongous food demand of today’s world, small farms are merging into large enterprises, applying an excess of herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers that are not just poisoning our food, but also our soil and atmosphere.
And let’s not forget about the freshness aspect of the food that we eat. If we talk specifically about the perishables, like fruit and veggies, then they are harvested before they reach the ripening stage. They are then gassed with preservatives to ripen after transport so that when they reach the supermarket aisle, they look all fresh and ready to be consumed.
How fresh is your food?
Food contamination can happen at any point during production, processing, storage, transport, distribution, and preparation. With an increase in food miles, the condition and quality of our food get further jeopardized. The long and complicated the journey of our supplies, the less likely we can determine when and where pathogens enter our meal. Food, something essential to life, is now so often affiliated with illness.
So, is it all bad?
Perhaps the most effective way of resisting industrialized agriculture is by growing ourselves. Growing at one’s place will give control over the processes and supplies involved in the production and a drastic reduction in the food miles. If we cultivate and cook what we grow, we can tackle the risks and dangers that our current global food supply chain possesses.
Age-old farming practices and food miles associated with the food we eat, not only harm our planet but is certainly not good for our health also. Switching to natural farming practices and growing at the local level will help us to fight the ongoing battle of climate change.