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Sustainable Food Guide
Environmental Practice at Work © 2005 Link:EP@W Ltd Web Site


 Energy Information...

Production of one kilogram of nitrogen for fertilizer requires the energy equivalent of from 1.4 to 1.8 liters of diesel fuel. The United States uses about 18 mil short tons of nitrogen fertilizer, which equates to the energy content of 23 billion litres of diesel fuel, or 144 million barrels (about 84 mb/day are used worldwide for everybody). Fertilizer Institute. China is now the top consumer of fertiliser with use rising beyond 40 million tons in 2004, as fertilizer use has leveled off in the United States.

The amount of energy consumed between the farm gate and the kitchen table continues to rise. 21 percent of overall food system energy is used in agricultural production, another 14 percent goes to food transport, 16 percent to processing, 7 percent to packaging, 4 percent to food retailing, 7 percent to restaurants and caterers, and 32 percent to home refrigeration and preparation. For more see Energy Bulletin: Agriculture

Energy Efficiency is a funny matter when applied to food. A microwave oven uses less electricity than a conventional oven - but this has fuelled the growth of prepared meals and frozen foods, both highly energy-intensive industries (according to the UK House of Lords Science & Technology Committee July 2005).

Agricultural energy consumption includes:

  • 31% for the manufacture of inorganic fertilizer
  • 19% for the operation of field machinery
  • 16% for transportation
  • 13% for irrigation
  • 05% for crop drying
  • 05% for pesticide production

A key concept is EROEI (energy return on energy invested, or net energy).

Energy-intensive modern industrial - "productionist" agriculture that has developed over last 50 years cannot be sustained over the next 50 years. "Food Wars" explains how the "productionist" way of thinking (called 'paradigm') is changing. Two new paraidigms for the way forward are developing. The ecological/health view differs from the "Life Sciences" approach in that it looks for public solutions rather than private. For more in relation to IIASTD


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