Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Far flung food: Europe's distant diets

07.12.2007
ESF-COST conference examines food's journey from outside of the EU

Across the European Union, food is travelling more, and not always in ways that make sense. Consider the chocolate covered waffle: Last year, Britain both imported 14,000 tonnes, and exported 15,000 tonnes. And it is not just waffles that are travelling further, as Europeans are eating - and importing - more food from outside the EU than ever before.

At a recent conference, funded by the European Science Foundation (ESF) and the European Cooperation in the field of Scientific and Technical Research (COST), scientists and policy makers gathered to consider the problems that face future European food supplies. One important area of research looks at where food comes from, and how that food gets from the field to the fork.

Results, presented at the conference in Budapest on November 5-6, show that food is increasingly coming from outside Europe. "Europe is one of the world's top food importers", says Paul Watkiss, a policy advisor from Oxford in the UK. For example, half all vegetables and 95% of fruit consumed within the UK come from overseas nowadays.

Why are Europeans eating more food from other regions? Watkiss thinks that today's global food market is one reason. "In recent years, Europe has begun to trade with many more developing countries," he says. "These countries have much lower labour and production costs, so can often grow and process food much more cheaply than we can in Europe".

Another reason for changing European tastes is the growth of major supermarkets in Europe. Lidl, Tesco and Carrefour-among others-have sprung up in all European countries. These supermarkets source many of their goods globally and so they are not reliant on seasonal fruits and vegetables. "It is unclear whether supermarkets have changed Europeans expectations of the foods available all year round or whether they are just responding to consumer demand," says Watkiss. Either way, Europeans are eating less local food.

What's more, Europeans are buying more convenience food - food that is pre-cut, pre-cooked and pre-packaged. These 'ready-meals' often contain ingredients that have been imported from many different countries. Furthermore, the cutting, cooking and packaging of 'ready-meals' is often done in more than one place, resulting in food that is well-travelled even before it is ready to eat.

By studying what Europeans eat, scientists hope to understand the economic, political, and cultural impacts of food on European society. One obvious impact of Europeans buying food from outside Europe is that it has greater impact on the environment. For example, as food travels more, it has to be protected with more packaging. "This means that, on average, 5% of what we buy in supermarkets is packaging", says Watkiss. Also, greater food transport causes more road congestion, greater damage to infrastructure, and higher emissions of pollutants, including greenhouse gases.

By better understanding the impacts of food distribution on European food supplies, scientists hope to encourage European policy makers to think about how efficiently food is produced and consumed, and the consequences of food traveling further.

The conference was attended by 75 scientists and policy makers from 22 countries and was one of the series of research conferences organised by the ESF-COST Forward Look initiative. Forward Look, a flagship instrument of the ESF, allows scientists to meet people from the world of policy and help set priorities for future research.

This Forward Look is a multidisciplinary joint ESF/COST initiative, which involves the ESF Standing Committee for Life, Earth and Environmental Sciences (LESC), the ESF European Medical Research Councils (EMRC), the ESF Standing Committee for the Humanities (SCH), the ESF Standing Committee for the Social Sciences (SCSS) and the COST Domain Committee for Food and Agriculture (FA).

Thomas Lau | alfa
Further information:
http://www.esf.org

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>