Eating Oil Report summary

This paper, edited by Lawrence Woodward, Director of Elm Farm Research Centre, Is a summary version of the report “Eating Oil: Food supply in a changing climate” produced by Sustain and Elm Farm Research Centre. The original report was written by Dr Andy Jones.

“Eating Oil” was the title of a book published in 1978 following the first oil crisis in 1973 1. The aim was to investigate the extent to which food supply in industrialised countries relied on fossil fuels. In the summer of 2000 the degree of dependence on oil in the UK food system was demonstrated once again when protestors blockaded oil refineries and fuel distribution depots. The ‘fuel crisis’ disrupted the distribution of food and industry leaders warned that their stores would be out of food within days. The lessons of 1973 had not been heeded.

Indeed, the food system is now even more based on cheap crude oil. Every time we eat, we are all essentially ‘eating oil’. Virtually all of the processes in the modern food system are now dependent upon this finite resource which is nearing its depletion phase.

Moreover, at a time when we should be making massive cuts in the emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in order to reduce the threat posed by climate change, the food system is lengthening its supply chains and increasing emissions to the point where it is a significant contributor to global warming.

The organic sector should be leading the development of a sustainable food system.

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