While the technology isn’t commercially available yet, several companies are working to implement food tracking software, which will help conscientious consumers to find out where their local shops’ food was grown before making a purchasing decision.
You might feel proud of yourself for always making sure that the bananas you buy are organic. But would you still feel good about your choice if you knew that rainforest trees were cut down to make room for the plantation where your fruit was grown, and that it was shipped all the way from Brazil to your supermarket?
For those who are passionate about food and the earth, eating is full of little ethical quandaries like these (read Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma for many more). Almost any food, unless it comes straight from your own veggie garden, might have a darker back story than you’ve been led to believe. And in some cases, such as when a crop may have been infected with the e. coli virus, the food you eat might actually be dangerous to you. So how can you find out the facts?
Simple: scan your food’s bar code and trace it back to its source. While the technology isn’t commercially available yet, several companies are working to implement food tracking software, which will help conscientious consumers to find out where their local shops’ food was grown before making a purchasing decision.
“The calculation of food miles and carbon footprint could be the killer application for traceability,” Heiner Lehr of FoodReg, a food tracking software developer, told NewScientist. “The technology is there. If a big retailer puts itself behind this, it could happen very fast.”
Another new initiative, the UK-based Fair Tracing Project, provides poor farmers in developing countries with cell phones and other technological tools to tell the story of their crops, and to provide documentation that their workers are treated ethically. Western consumers choosing produce at their local shops can then learn about the farmers who grew their food, and will be reassured to learn about their Fair Trade policies.
And for those who are concerned about the environmental impact of all of the consumer goods they purchase, from laundry detergent to light bulbs, our neighbors to the east may already have the key: the Japanese government has already launched an initiative to print an estimated carbon footprint on all consumer goods, which is calculated based on the distance and energy needed to import a product.
Hopefully, the United States will follow suit soon—but in the meantime, if you’re concerned about your food miles, there’s no need to hold out for a high-tech scanner: just take a stroll down to your local farmers market and chat up the vendors there. It’s safe to say they didn’t just hop on a plane from Brazil—and even if their fruits and veggies aren’t as exotic as the mangosteens and papayas you might find at your grocery store, they’re sure to taste much fresher going straight from the farm to your plate.
Via | Gimundo