Genetic engineering in agriculture
Superfluity and starvation
Industrialisation and agriculture
The long road from the field to the table
"These trucks are all full of soya. They pick up their loads in the north of Mato Grosso. From there the soya is transported 2,500 kilometres to port. And from there the soya is exported."
Vincent José Puhl,
, biologist (Brazil)
The crazy logic of long-distance transportation of foodstuffs has become common knowledge above all through the focus on live animal transports across the continent as also from seemingly curious examples such as German potatoes being transported to Poland to be washed before being transported back again to be sold in Germany. Analysis carried out by the ÖAMTC Academy in 1997 revealed that even a classic Viennese breakfast with all the ingredients – bread rolls, ham, cheese, milk, sugar, eggs, yoghurt and breakfast drinks – sourced in Austria is the result of at least 5,000 kilometres on the road. If you give yourself the additional treat of a kiwi fruit from New Zealand, you can add a further 1,250 kilometres to that total – and that’s after 20,000 kilometres on a freighter. In 2002 transport stream analysis of the Austrian foodstuff value creation chain revealed that the road from field to table is becoming ever longer. In the last 30 years the transport output of the chain as a whole has risen by 125%.
Hidden behind this development, where food products that have travelled thousands of kilometres are often cheaper than regional products, are cheap labour and state subsidies of both production and transport. All of that impacts negatively on people – beginning with the often exploitative conditions in the places of production and in freight transport, including huge negative impacts on people who live on the transit routes, to health risks for the consumers of foodstuffs which can often only be made fit for these long journeys with the aid of chemicals.
The environment also suffers: from the direct impact of pollutants on the one hand and high energy use and its concomitant contribution to climate change on the other. For example, a kilo of strawberries flown in from Israel costs almost five litres of petroleum oil before it reaches the supermarket shelf as compared with a kilo of strawberries from an Austrian farm which uses only 0.2 litres.
But it’s not only our food that comes from all over the world. The days when feedstuffs for Austrian livestock came exclusively from Austrian fields, meadows and Alpine pastures are long gone: in Central and South America around 350,000 hectares of soya are grown for the Austrian livestock industry – that’s the same area of land cultivated in Austria for bread cereals.
Schwarzbuch Straße, Deutike 2003