Impacts elsewhere

Sustainability of UK food & farming must recognise the production abroad. While we import about 50% of our food (by value) the environmental damage that this causes is disproportionate.


64% of the GHGs which contribute to our 'Food Footprint' are produced abroad, while 70% of land we use to grow our crops are located abroad too. Based on Royal Society Report


Another factor is the amount of water we use elsewhere. The water (called 'virtual') used to grow imported fruit and vegetable from Africa to Europe is the equivalent of 20 'Niles' worth a year. "Behind your morning cup of coffee is 140 litres of water used to grow, produce, package and ship the beans."

This is not the actual water in the fruit and veg,. How much is that? V difficult to calculate. UK imports of tomatoes from southern Spain require the amount of irrigated water equivalent to the domestic consumption of 200,000 people. More (!! There are now proposals to ban irrigation in certain parts of Southern Spain).

Importing Food, exporting drought


About 70% of land needed to grow our food is abroad..Royal Society B Think about the soya, corn, rice, coffee..


Towards an EU Sustainable Food Policy "From a scientific point-of-view, what are workable paths to deliver an inclusive, ‘just’ and timely transition to an EU sustainable food system, where possible delivering ‘co-benefits’ for health, the environment, and socio-economic aspects? "

France urging EU to make sure UK pledge to implement EU Directives on climate change in return for good trade deal.
'Towards a Common Food Policy for the EU' sets out how to achieve sustainable food systems that the CAP, Common Agricultural Policy, cannot. 'THE POLICY REFORM AND REALIGNMENT THAT IS REQUIRED TO BUILD SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS IN EUROPE" Vision Unveiled
"Without sustainable, secure and safe farming in the UK, we will not survive.”
Voices from the Field. Can farmers champion health? FRC interviews
Sustainable Food System Indicators

RSA Report 'Our Future in the land'

Makes 15 recommendations in three areas:

Healthy food is every body’s business: Levelling the playing field for a fair food system – good food must become good businessFarming is a force for change, unleashing a fourth agricultural revolution driven by public values: Designing a ten-year transition plan for sustainable, agroecological farming by 2030A countryside that works for all, and rural communities are a powerhouse for a fair and green economy: Establishing a national land use framework in England inspires cooperation based on the public value of land, mediating and encouraging multipurpose usesSuggestions include increasing production of British fruit and vegetables and a national nature service for young people.

How can we make Britain's food supply more sustainable? Round table including executives of Tesco, Nestle and Gs.

Didnt agree with anything, they were not beginning to look at the main issues.

The true cost of cheap, unhealthy food is a spiralling public health crisis and environmental destruction.

“Our own health and the health of the land are inextricably intertwined [but] in the last 70 years, this relationship has been broken,”

Tesco & WWF launch sustainable basket metric

It "tracks the environmental impact of a sample of some of the most regularly purchased foods against key sustainability criteria, including climate change, deforestation and food and packaging waste. "

Global Warming

NFU conference 'FARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE: TOWARDS NET ZERO CARBON EMISSIONS'. Their president Minette Batters’ has set a target of net zero carbon emissions from UK agriculture by 2040.

Climate Change Committee says billions of trees need to be planted
The scariest thing about climate change: what happens to our food supply. "Governments around the world will have to prioritize the adoption of sustainable agriculture and fishing, as well as the reduction of carbon emissions because the need for adequate food is a vulnerability that no civilization can evade. The most terrifying image of climate change is not ocean waves crashing over a seawall. It is of a sun-baked field of wheat, parched and abandoned, its blighted soil drained of life."
Carbon Markets probably not the answer. A carbon market sets a cap on allowable greenhouse gas emissions. The government issues emissions credits that add up to this cap, and covered entities, who can buy and sell carbon to make the cap. The EU carbon market does not extend to agriculture. In my book, I spelt out that the Irish PM considered it should, believing ot would bring in money for farmers rewarding efforts to keep carbon on the soil. Agriculture is a unique industry as it can sequester carbon. But not all agree it is a good idea. IATP say ""Treating agricultural land narrowly as a carbon sink undermines more effective and holistic agricultural practices. Other benefits of regenerative agriculture become secondary, including production for local food systems, healthier soils and water and farm resilience to climate impacts." They ppoint out it is likely to benefit bigger farms and the corporations that market carbon.
Nature-based ways to combat global warming "Planting millions of acres of trees and energy crops as well as restoring wetlands and coastal habitats could help the UK become carbon neutral by 2050." They go on to suggest "need to not just draw down carbon but to store it permanently as well.Five practical steps to remove greenhouse gasesIncrease forest cover by about 40% of the current UK totalPlant around 2.5 million acres for energy crops - these can be burned for electricity and the CO2 stored underground permanentlyRestore wetlands and salty marshesCrush silicate rocks and spread them on farmland to absorb CO2Build more houses with timber


LUPG report Transitions to Agroecology (The UK Statutory Conservation, countryside and environment agencies) says "More environmentally sustainable farming, such as the agroecological approaches considered in the study, provides opportunities to develop new business ventures, in turn helping to develop the rural economy and support rural communities." "Some farmers reported cognitive shifts in their understanding of farming (‘change the mind-set’, ‘weeds as forage’, ‘accepting mess’, and engaging with the local community) as well as emotional shifts in enjoying new skills and knowledge and increasing self-reliance (‘finding your own agronomic solutions’, ‘doing your own budgets’). "
See also Soil where I start to spell out the importance of saving our arable soils

Recipe for Disaster

How Global Warming is affecting our vegetable crop growing
5 types of consumer make up 'plant-based' trend.


The Hidden cost of food shows that for every pound we spend on food in the shops, there is another pound passed on to society. Half "of this total is made up by the damaging impacts of intensive production methods, including environmental pollution, soil degradation, biodiversity loss and some health impacts." While a further third is made up of "food-related healthcare costs, linked to poor diets...A high proportion of these extra costs are paid through general and local taxation". Not by the retailers. When snow covered the UK earlier this year, the loss of topsoil became starkly apparent as the white snow was rapidly covered with brown earth from eroded fields.
FAO Report says "Water pollution from unsustainable agricultural practices poses a serious risk to human health and the planet's ecosystems, a problem often underestimated by policymakers and farmers alike. "
Sustainability Food Trust says the hidden - and unpaid - costs of UK food is about £120b year. "The most significant share of this total is made up by the damaging impacts of intensive production methods, including environmental pollution, soil degradation, biodiversity loss and some health impacts. These account for an extra 50 p of every £1 spent on food. Food-related health care costs, linked to poor diets account for an extra 37p" Direct farm subsidies are only 2.5p.
Charlie (site author) runs website
See Soil page for more on erosion

Landworkers Alliance Food. Farming & the Climate Crisis.

"Climate Change isn't just about greenhouses gases - it is about land rights, agriculture, natural resources, and the right to manage them for the greater good. The food system is a central part of this fight - what we eat is responsible for more carbon pollution than all the world's planes, trains and automobiles. Between the forests and fields converted to agriculture and pollution directly from farming, what we eat accounts for nearly a third of all gases contributing to climate change" Annie Shattock, Food First

Food Waste

Gove promises £15m in food redistribution
Around a third of all food produced is wasted - a third of that is before the supermarket and a thirds is what we throw away. Around 90 mt wasted each year in the EU.
Would giving tax credits to companies that give their food waste to food banks help?
Farm food waste could feed Manchester & Birmingham for a year.
Ocado - the on-line food retailer, has reduced food waste to virtually zero.
Moves to use bread - one of the biggest source of food waste, for brewing beer. Toast Ale Use our Loaf Beer - 'the best thing since sliced bread'. This is hardly new - both bread and beer have been proposed as the impetus for agriculture and civilisation. Some early bread making was for the explicit purpose of brewing beer. Origins of Bread & Beer
Sainsbury's given up on its pilot 'Waste less, Save more' campaign after rotten result in Derbyshire
Food waste in manufacturing shows that just under half of all edible food that becomes waste does so during manufacturing, distribution and retail.
UK Supermarkets stepped up to the plate to halve food waste by 2030. "More than 100 of the biggest players in food, including all of the UK’s major supermarkets, have signed a pledge to take ground-breaking action to drive down food waste following a call to action from the government.
Italy introduce laws to send unsold food to charities rather than dumpsters.

Food Waste is actually not always waste.
1. If the “waste” food can be eaten as food by humans, it should be. This is called prevention.
2. If it cannot be eaten by humans but still by farm animals as feed, it should be.
3. If no human or animal can eat it anymore, it should go to organic recycling.
4.The next step is energy recovery and
5. When it can't be used for anything else, it should be classified as waste. Only then.
Tesco to scrap 'Best Before' labels to help reduce food waste Oct 2018
OLIO connects neighbours with each other and with local businesses so surplus food can be shared, not thrown away.

EU Independent Expert Group: "recommend orientations for food and nutrition security research and innovation in the years to come. The report calls for a Research, Innovation and Investment Strategy (RI&IS) in line with the EC FOOD2030 initiative to deliver on four priorities: nutrition for sustainable and healthy diets; climate smart and environmentally sustainable food systems; circularity and resource efficiency of food systems; innovation and empowerment of communities. The experts have reworked and integrated these using food systems thinking, "
Find out your food's climate footprint

We are feeding only half the world's population sustainably, but could change where grown and how to feed more.

BioethanolBioethanol plants to close/pause. Despite promises to support bioethanol production, government doing nothing.
PenguinsPenguins may be in peril as £3 b of EU conservation funds not yet been guaranteed in our overseas territories, like the Falklands
More demand for more sustainable practices will encourage more companies to certify output


Can Agroecology feed the world? "Compared with 2010, an extra 7,400tn calories will be needed a year in 2050 (according to WRI) . If food production increases along current lines, that would require a landmass twice the area of India." This spells out how agroecology can provide an answer, but misses main point - we are overproducing food now and have enough to feed twice present population.
EU farms could go green and feed the population - with agroecology. "Research shows loss in yields could be offset by reorienting diets away from grain-fed meat " Full Report


Many people believe the answer is to 'Go Organic'. It certainly looks after soil better and reduces uses of pesticides and fertilisers - big contributors to water pollution and reduced biodiversity. But the problem is that, on average, organic yields per hectare are lower, too. For wheat and barley, yields are just half of those of conventional farms. That means 1.5 times as much land would be needed to grow the same amount of food. The big question that leaves is where would we do the extra growing.

Regenerative Agriculture

In US, Big Food investing in large areas to regenerate soil. Regenerative agriculture is holistically managed, no-waste operation with many species of livestock rotated to graze the rolling pastures and fertilise the land without chemicals, resulting in rich, healthy soil. One estimate suggests "that if regenerative practices were used on all of the world’s croplands and pastures forever — a huge assumption — the soil may be able to sequester up to 322 billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere...The claims that you can reverse climate change with regenerative agriculture, that’s a real stretch. The more credible estimates are a good down payment on reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide,”

Conservation Agriculture "'It's a groundswell': the farmers fighting to save the Earth's soil"
Fungal-rich composting increases soil health. "Using BEAM, the biologically enhanced agricultural management process developed fungal-dominated compost, that during an agricultural field study lasting 4.5 years, showed there was a 25X increase in active soil fungal biomass and an annual average capture and storage of 10.27 metric tons soil C ha-1 year (approximately 38,000 pounds of CO2 per acre per year). That’s 20-50 times the currently observed soil carbon increase in the 40 equivalent no-till soils tested"

EAT Lancet

EAT-Lancet 'Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems' addresses "the need to feed a growing global population a healthy diet while also defining sustainable food systems that will minimise damage to our planet." Plan to save the Planet.
Responses ADHB "“Farming, in particular dairy and red meat, is part of the solution, making best use of naturally occurring assets to feed a growing population. They an important nutritional part of a healthy, balanced diet. Dan Crossley Vlog. Open Democracy 'Planetary Diet not much use for poor. RSA Eight Take-Aways Sustainable Food Trust WWF Felicity Lawrence
WHO drops its endorsement of the diet. "The status of epidemiological literature is not at a level to allow us to make these types of very detailed, specific recommendations".

Plant v Animal impacts

There is a general presumption that herbivores are better for the planet than carnivores. Here IATP and GRAIN spell out Emissions Impossible - how big five meat and dairy companies produce more GHGs than big oil companies. But..
For HerbivoresThis is based mainly on 1) number of calories to make vegetable calories much less than for meat, 2) GHP potential of methane production of ruminant creatures.
For carnivores1. Nitrate production - mainly for vegetable and grain production is a greater GHG contributor and energy consumer than methane (Stren) 2 According to Stern biggest contribuor to GHGs is land use change - from forest to pasture and from pasture to ploughed land..where3.Vegetable and grain growing is wrecking our best land.
Grass-fed Beef - the most vegan item in the supermarket Organic beef suckler herd - good for environment 4.30 mins in..mob grazing good for biodiversity and roots hold carbon cf tillage. LinkRaising beef is good for the planetLaws for vegansStop blaming Cows
Destructive Farming is the issue - "if we really need to split things up simplistically, I vote for that of destructive farming versus regenerative farming. Or just Good Farming versus Bad Farming. Forget about plant-based versus animal-based: that’s as helpful as zombies versus aliens...Let’s not confuse ideology and ecology — there is no time for that anymore."
Veganism is not the answer "Intensively farmed meat and dairy are a blight, but so are fields of soya and maize. There is another way we have to mitigate these ills - grazing and browsing animals." UK Roundtable on Sustainable Soya "sets out our current understanding of the UK soya footprint in terms of volumes, source and sustainability credentials " (2018).
Veganuary may not be helping fight climate change. Is is as simple as animals bad plants good?
Sustainable Diets according to land.pptx

Veganism is not the answer

It's not WHAT you eat, it's HOW it's produced that matters

It's the cars not the cows

"The campaign underway to shame the world into giving up animal foods in the name of climate change is pure vegetarian projection, a low-calorie mixture of facts and assumptions "
We need Soil not Soy

Diet Footprint

Emissions of average diets in EU Countries.
"International trade presents a challenge for measuring the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission footprint of human diets, because imported food is produced with different production efficiencies and sourcing regions differ in land use histories. We analyze how trade and countries of origin impact GHG footprint calculation for EU food consumption.
Shame that as part of the calculation 'x' "denotes the emission factor for land use change related to deforestation for crop/pasture" WHAT? This implies they consider there is no difference between pasture and arable. Forest to Pasture in Land Use Stage 1, Pasture to Arable is Land Use Stage 2. Both are very important and very different. Pasture and crops soils are impacted quite differently, such that there are half small animals under arable as under pasture. See 'Save our Arable Soils. This feeds into Sustainable Diets 'Taking in Land Use', above.

Caen & Abel

This was cut out of the book...The argument between the carnivores and herbivores goes back to ‘Biblical Times’, as told in the story of Cain and Abel. Their father – Adam – said they should make a sacrifice to God. Abel was a shepherd so offered up a nice young lamb, while Cain who ploughed the land offered ‘burnt grasses’. This may have been bread, as this would be where and when wheat was first cultivated. God preferred the lamb.
So Cain killed his brother. His punishment for this was that God sent him off to the land, East of Eden - from where the film gets its name. (The film plot changed a bit, so 'a wilful young man contends against his brother for the attention of their religious father'. James Dean played the wilful Cal (=Cain) to win him the first ever posthumous Oscar). Despite this story being part of all the three big Abrahamic religions, nobody has been able to explain to me why God is a carnivore

Sustainable Standards

Green Alliance 'Setting the Standard Shifting to sustainable food production in the UK' says "A successful domestic policy for sustainable food production is contingent on trade strategy. A vision of farms with high welfare standards and precision agriculture, growing high quality, sustainable, low carbon food would wither on the vine faced with a trade policy that opened up market access to food produced under lower environmental standards. " It is good at looking at the phrase 'public money for public goods' that everybody seems to agree with. But what are public goods and when do we use public money to rectify market failures?
Food Industry in 2018 - Bolder Aims and Broader Horizons on Sustainability "Food companies are being spurred by the UN Global Goals and heightened consumer expectations to increase the ambition and broaden the scope of their sustainability programmes."
Brexit & Environment is a network of impartial academic experts analysing the implications of Brexit for UK and EU environmental policy and governance.
Chatham House Conference A Sustainable Food Future Nov 27-28 London