In the spring of 2011, the cucumber crisis broke out, of which some reader will keep a vague memory.
An epidemiological service in Hamburg blamed Spanish cucumbers for an outbreak of hemorrhagic diarrhea that affected 4,000 citizens and killed 50 of them in Germany, and a smaller outbreak in France.
It was a mistake.
The cucumber crop was ruined and Hamburg apologized.
Further investigation showed that the bacteria responsible had already been in Germany for a year and a half.
And it didn't come from any cucumber, but from a cargo ship that arrived from Egypt with 15 tons of fenugreek seeds, a component of curry and a source of sprouts for salads.
What was most striking about all this was the tortuous and hallucinatory path that the shipment of fenugreek had followed.
After its arrival from Turkey to the South of Europe, most of the product went to a German intermediary who took a year and a half to sell it to the farms that germinated the sprouts and offered them to restaurants, and another part traveled to the United Kingdom. United so that a specialized distributor would distribute the fenugreek in 50-gram bags and end up selling it to France for shops and school canteens.
Was all this really necessary?
Are you sure there isn't a better way to organize things?
And who is the Englishman who dedicates himself to making little packages?
How strange is all this.
Scientists and environmentalists have been insisting for decades on the need to reduce food transport and encourage local production.
The emissions figures used until now, however, were not eloquent enough, taking into account that food production is itself an essential source of carbon dioxide (a third of global emissions).
This is changing.
The latest data published in
They show that the transport of food around the world emits up to seven times more than we thought (three gigatons of carbon dioxide per year, for those who love numbers).
In fact, transport accounts for 20% of total emissions from agriculture, and it is surely just the 20% that can be acted on the fastest.
Another thing is that we want to do it.
As might be expected, rich countries are responsible for half of the emissions from food transport, despite accounting for only 12% of the world's population.
From the other angle, half of the people on the planet, who are those who live in poor countries, only generate 20% of the CO2 for the same reason.
We rich countries are satisfied with eating everything and all year round, tomatoes in winter, mangoes and bananas at all hours, American beef steak and Japanese puffer fish.
It is in the logic of international trade, where whoever pays matters.
It is better, says the doctrine, that the countries are related by trade than by war, and it is frankly difficult to oppose that slogan.
But moving food along parallels and meridians is harmful and contributes in a not insignificant way to global warming.
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