The UK is increasingly “outsourcing” the environmental impact of its food supply

Introduction by Marie Persson of the Food Climate Research Network (FCRN), Blog post by Henri de Ruiter

The UK is increasingly “outsourcing” the environmental impact of its food supply

This new FCRN blog-post discusses the findings of a recent paper by Henri de Ruiter and colleagues, Global cropland and greenhouse gas impacts of UK food supply are increasingly located overseas.  Henri is a PhD Student at the University of Aberdeen and the James Hutton Institute and his current PhD project considers the implications of meeting a healthy and environmentally sustainable diet for future land use. In this post he describes how the UK is becoming increasingly dependent on croplands overseas and the environmental implications of this trend. He also reflects on the complexities of this type of research, and describes the combination of methods that the researchers used to calculate the total cropland footprint of the UK and its associated greenhouse gas emissions.


"The United Kingdom (UK) is increasingly dependent on external resources to meet its demand for food, and is outsourcing its environmental impact to other countries by importing more food. That is the main conclusion of our recently published paper in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.


The aim of our study was to better understand the environmental consequences of a globalised food system. The magnitude of agricultural trade is very significant and growing: about a quarter of all food is traded internationally and more than 20% of all global cropland area is used to produce exports. While global studies give a good indication of the extent of agricultural trade and its environmental consequences, analysing a single country and a specific activity, i.e. food consumption, highlights the global effects arising from a nation’s consumption, and could inform policy-making. Therefore, we analysed the food supply of the UK and its consequences for two environmental indicators: the global cropland footprint and associated greenhouse gas emissions, for the period 1986 – 2009."


Read the full blog-post on FCRN's (Food Climate Research Network) website


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