Why Food is a Transition Issue

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Peak oil hurts food production because

  • agriculture, food processing and transportation all use energy which will become much more expensive
    • the food industry accounts for about 14% of energy consumption by UK businesses and 25% of HGV miles travelled
  • as energy prices increase biofuels production becomes more economic and competes with food for land
    • biofuel production is now blamed as the primary contributor to increasing global food prices in 2008

Global warming (over about 2C) hurts food production because

  • lower rainfall in Europe, Australia, southern US and North Africa will reduce yields
    • grain production in Australia is already reduced by drought
  • more extreme weather becomes more common
    • the floods in summer 2007 destroyed many acres of food crops in the UK
    • the 2003 heatwave reduced yields across Europe for maize, fruit and grapes by up to 30%

The UK food supply is vulnerable because

  • we are heavily dependent on imports
    • more than half our food is imported (by value)
    • in 2006 the trade gap between imports and exports on food and drink was 14 billion and this has increased by 50% in ten years.
  • our local industry is at risk
    • there are concerns over soil erosion and nutrient depletion in soil (all over Europe too)
    • skills may soon be lost as few young people take to farming - the average (mnedian) age of a farmer in 2005 was 58

We need a more resilient food industry, including

  • developing sustainable production techniques
    • using less energy intensive fertilisers and other chemicals
    • recycling nutrients, for example using compost from household waste
  • increasing local production
    • reducing transportation costs and vulnerability to changing exchange rates
    • lessening our dependent on imports which may be withheld in times of shortage
  • diversifying the national production and distribution system so it is more resilient to sudden shocks

What you can do

  • Separate your household waste for composting
  • Grow food for yourself
  • Reduce food waste
    • Eat foods that are in season - when they are at their best
    • Store left overs to eat later
  • Buy locally produced food products
  • Avoid over processed and packaged food which wastes energy
    • need link to advice page on what this means!
  • Change your diet to consume less energy intensive meat and dairy foods
    • need link to more info here on energy intensity of different food stuffs
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