Nowadays, we eat oil. Most of the fertilizers essential to modern agriculture are produced by the petrochemical industry. But it doesn’t end there. In the West, the food industry is based on a ystem of imports and distribution networks that is reliant on transportation.
Intercontinental imports of fresh produce are a case in point. Transporting food into Europe by air creates the equivalent of four to five times the food’s weight in carbon emissions! Moreover, the system of major retail chains, which functions on economies of scale to keep
costs low, is completely dependent on heavy-duty hauliers to supply supermarkets with food around the clock. It is not unusual for a food to be produced in one country, packaged in another, and sold in a third. One study calculated that the ingredients used to make a single pot of fruit yogurt may have traveled a total of 5,600 miles (9,000 kilometers). This type of agriculture is disconnected from its traditional geographical base and can relocate to those areas where wages are the lowest, bringing about a sharp fall in workers’ pay.
In the same way, crops cultivated within this system are disconnected from the natural rhythm of the seasons, and grown in hothouse environments. For example, in AlmerÌa in southern Spain, millions of tomatoes are grown all year round in wooden boxes, on rockwool enriched with minerals, nutrients, and water. They are packaged daily and distributed around the world.
The solution is to “relocalize“ food by reducing the distances it travels. This means reforging links with local producers, re-establishing “short cuts“ between producers and consumers without passing through the intermediary of the major retail chains, and, of course, favoring seasonal produce. Producersí cooperatives, many of them organic, are multiplying around the globe, creating jobs and enabling agricultural areas — some fallen into disuseóto be cultivated again.