ADLib Glossary (F)

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Food miles

Food miles are the measure of the distance a food travels from field to plate. Agriculture and food now account for nearly 30 per cent of goods transported on our roads. This travel adds substantially to the carbon dioxide emissions that are contributing to climate change. It has been estimated that food miles rose by 15 per cent between 1992 and 2002 in the UK.

The term "Food Miles" was first coined almost ten years ago in a report by the SAFE Alliance, now Sustain, which highlighted concerns over the negative environmental and socio-economic impacts of increasing transport of food. Food miles are simply the distances travelled by foodstuffs from farm gate to consumer. They are generally measured as tonne-kilometres, i.e. the distance travelled in kilometres multiplied by the weight in tonnes for each foodstuff. However, to measure the environmental impact of food miles it is necessary to convert them into vehicle kilometres, i.e. the sum of the distances travelled by each vehicle carrying food.

A study of the validity of food miles as an indicator of sustainable development has been undertaken by AEA Technology Environment commissioned by Defra. The executive summary and full report can be found below:

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