Monday, May 21, 2012

Food from far and near

Some months ago we published a post about the importance of eating local products, arguing that fishing prawns in Scotland to be hand-shelled in China and eventually eaten in Europe is rather nonsense. And it is utterly unsustainable.
Thanks to a survey performed by the ecological association Friends of the Earth together with some researchers from the university of Vigo and Seville, we can get a clear picture of all this nonsense. Let’s analyse it with figures in hand.
Even if we are getting aware of environmental issues, our consumption habits are getting worse in this sense. Between 1995 and 2007, 53% more food was imported in Spain. At present, Spain imports 29,000 million kg of food --that is, 29 plus nine zeros. Not bad at all, is it? These imports have environmental costs: 4.7 million tonnes of CO2 released to the atmosphere, which do nothing but boost climatic change.
How do these imports get in Spain? 70% are shipped by sea and the rest by road. Some other food is freighted by train or by plane, but in a small percentage. However, airmailing is very contaminating: even if it stands only for 0.22% of imported food, it represents 16% of total CO2 emissions. Lucky us it is only 0.22%!
And to top it all, all these food is not imported from our neighbours: as average, food travels 5,013 km before getting in Spain. The less travelling imports are diary products, which only travel 1,339 km, whereas the most travelling imports are cattle feed (7,901 km). And do not try to avoid your responsibility: unless you are vegetarian and you do not eat eggs or diary products, you do consume cattle feed indirectly!
In 1995, Spain imported mostly from the US (24%) but our habits have changed and now Spain imports 39% from Latin America (especially from Argentina, from where we currently import 25%, quite a lot if compared to 4.25% in 1995).
Here you have a list of the main countries exporting their food to Spain:
  • Wine: Chile, Argentina and Italy
  • Diary products and eggs: France, Portugal and Germany
  • Coffee and cocoa: Vietnam, Germany and Brazil
  • Living animals: the Netherlands, France and Switzerland
  • Processed food: Europe
  • Meat: France, Brazil, Germany and the Netherlands
  • Peas: Mexico
  • Fish: Argentina, Morocco, China, France and Portugal
  • Cereals: Brazil, France, US and Argentina
  • Pork: France, the Netherlands and Hungary
  • Fruit and vegetables: France, Thailand and Portugal
  • Fodder: Argentina
  • Soya: Argentina and Brazil
  • Sugar: France, India and Portugal

It does not make any sense, does it? When you go shopping, just check where the food comes from. It is the first step to change our consumption habits.

  1. Post at Delivering Data about the importance of consuming local products:
  2. Report Alimentos kilométricos: Las emisiones de CO2 por la importación de alimentos al estado español (Food miles: CO2 emissions from food imports in Spain) drawn by the ecological association Friends of the Earth together with researchers from the university of Vigo and Seville:
  3. Friends of the Earth International:


  1. I really like your blog and have one with similar information. If you have time check it out.
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  2. Lots of things for me to check out, as usual...thanks! When do you leave? I'm so excited for you!!

  3. Vietnamese coffee is very good. Thanks for your sharing! Keep on updating, pls.

  4. I love Vietnamese coffee. It's really black and delicious! Anyway, fruits is always fresh and yummy. Thank you.


  5. Your blog is very useful for me.I really like you post.Thanks for sharing.


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