Food mile is said to be the distance food travels from the farm (source) to the consumer (destination). Food mile is a unit to indicate the environmental impact of the food we eat. When food miles increase, the fuel spent to transport the food increases and carbon emissions increase. More damage is done to the environment.
The concept of food mile can also be extended to other manufactured and finished goods like textiles, chemicals, medicines, electronic goods and so on. It is wiser to develop zero emission transports than to talk about reducing food miles.
Environmental experts want to reduce food miles. Is it really possible ? Is it necessary ?
Here are some reasons to understand that food miles are irrelevant in a global village.
- World has become a global village:
- People irrespective of their nationality,religion,language are free to travel anywhere,work anywhere,live anywhere.
- Can anyone change his or her food habits, life style just because of change in location ?
- Can an American in India have Paratha, Roti or Rice, Idli, Dosa every day ? or an Indian in U.S. eat every day western food.
- Need to import:
- Due to failure of monsoon, delayed monsoon, unexpected storms or hurricanes, quantity and quality of agricultural products are bound to reduce. When food items are in short supply, a country has to import from other countries where it is available.
- If the locally produced food items are costly and of inferior quality, a better product with competitive price has to be imported.
- Need to export:
- When farm products are in surplus due to good monsoon, better agricultural methods and if storage/preservation costs are high, then the products have to be exported.
Definitely food miles can not be brought to zero.
Till development takes place to bring in zero emission transports, how to reduce food miles ?
- By producers (farmers):
- Use better means of transport: transporting by sea is cheaper comparing to transportation by road or air.
- Use fuel efficient transports.
- Establish a global network to supply so that food items can be transported from the nearest available source.
- By consumers:
- Plan your purchase and reduce the frequency of buying food items using automobiles.
- Instead of travelling individually using private transport to buy, make use of public transports.
- By the government:
- Increase the number of outlets selling food items so that the consumers need not to travel long distances to buy.
- Triveni floating store is an example in Kerala.
When people have comfortable life styles and food habits, the global village can be more peaceful.
View some interesting video clips:
Read more: Food Systems and Distances Traveled