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Food systems with Dr Laurence Smith

Dr Laurence Smith discusses the complexity behind the food system using examples from production, retail and consumption.

Emily and Nick meet with Dr Laurence Smith to learn about his systems-thinking approach to investigating the environmental burdens associated with particular food products. He describes how lifecycle analysis of a food item analyses everything that goes into producing, for example, a kilogram of wheat, right down to the coal burned to create electricity to power the production process. He demonstrates how this level of understanding shows that buying locally grown tomatoes (if you live in the UK) may be less sustainable than buying those grown in warmer climates like Spain.

Take a single fruit or vegetable from your cupboard or fridge. From what you know of its production (where it was farmed, what kinds of farming methods might have been used, how it was transported to your market and then your home), see if you can make a list of all the environmental burdens associated with it. How long is your list?

About Dr Laurence Smith

Dr Laurence Smith, from the School of Agriculture, Policy & Development at the University of Reading, focuses on the development and application of tools and metrics for sustainability assessment to reveal trade-offs and synergies from innovations within food systems. Laurence is co-coordinating the Horizon 2020 project PATHWAYS to inform policy, research, and business strategies in support of a transition to more sustainable livestock production and consumption and he has been working on the Sustainable Food Trust-led Global Farm Metric to help us all have more confidence in our food system.

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