Food transportation -  BBC Worldwide - 15022012
Food transportation has taken off in the past decade, to the horror of some environmentalists. Photo by BBC Worldwide
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A documentary film to be broadcast this evening on Channel 8 describes the journey of various foods from field to plate. Though "The Food Autostrada" opens with shots of slaughtered pigs hanging in an abattoir cold room, it does not take a particularly critical stance toward our fast transportation of food.

The film provides data, charts the processes and shows multiple facets of a complex issue. These are just some of the journeys food takes: 40,000 tons of pork chops a year are sent from Denmark to Japan; 400,000 tons of peas ship from Canada to India; and 2.5 million tons of potatoes are exported from Egypt.

This fact about Egypt is the first to be expanded upon. The film describes not only the route in one direction but also a confluence of routes: The seeds for the potatoes come from Scotland, and the soil scattered over the potatoes in crates, to preserve their freshness, comes from Ireland. The potatoes themselves actually grow in the sands of Egypt.

It takes 500 liters of water to grow a kilo of potatoes, the film reveals. In the absence of rainwater in this desert region, water is pumped from deep in the earth. The Egyptians drill down to a water source 350 meters below ground. This water source is a million years old, and the moment it is empty it will not fill up again.

From Egypt the film moves to Kenya, which is responsible for the annual export of 40,000 tons of beans. To opponents who object to the food autostrada on ecological grounds, a Kenyan farmer explains that raising the legume provides jobs and enables the building of an independent local community. The growers say that boycotts of products exported from afar punish the inhabitants of Kenya, where carbon dioxide emissions are close to zero.

The film shows the stations tea leaves have passed through - from Kenya, Sri Lanka and India - before being placed in tea bags in England. They are then packaged and transported to China, Australia and the United States.

It also follows pineapples from Ghana to Europe and pauses in Holland - a relatively small country yet the largest exporter of food. It is responsible for half the world's exports of cucumbers and peppers, as well as for a quarter of the tomatoes - all this thanks to the hothouses illuminated by artificial light in a country with little natural sunlight.

The film shows potatoes growing without water and cucumbers growing without sun, followed by their rapid transportation in ships and planes to a growing world in need of cheap food. On this journey, the questions and dilemmas concerning the system infiltrate like stowaways.

"The Food Autostrada," Channel 8, 7:00 P.M.