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 worlds 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 todays 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 Carrefouramong othershave 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.
Whats more, Europeans are
|Contact: Astrid Lunkes|
European Science Foundation