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Arithmetic Of Food Miles Flawed

food_miles_sticker.jpgThousands of people in the UK have bought in to the idea that eating local produce can help save the planet, but “only local is good” has come under attack, according to an article in the Guardian.

As an example, the article looks at green beans from Kenya, which carry a sticker with the image of a plane on it to indicate that carbon dioxide was emitted during import. But that doesn’t necessarily mean local produce is better, according to the article. Kenya Beans are grown using manual labor instead of tractors, they use fertilizer from cows and they have low-tech irrigation systems.

When you look at all the numbers, you discover that air-transported green beans from Kenya could actually account for the emission of less carbon dioxide than British beans.

Supermarkets, like Tesco, are catching on too and making plans to replace airplane labels that measure carbon during transportation with carbon labels that measure carbon that is emitted during a product’s manufacture and import.

These carbon cost labels have already been tested on a small range of products. The labels are being developed by Carbon Trust in partnership with Defra and BSI British Standards.

On a similar topic, a study from the University of Alberta found that organic food may not be any better for the planet.

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2 thoughts on “Arithmetic Of Food Miles Flawed

  1. Local organic farming is the way to go and is still probably better than flying in foods from other countries. In terms of organic farming in general, it is safe to say that organic foods are better for people. Whether organic is better for the planet is an entirely separate issue. Do we farm organically for the planet or for ourselves? Let’s get real. What is good for the planet is crop rotation, which is a method many organic farms employ. Non-organic farms tend to rotate crops less because they can rely on additional fertilizers to add nutrients to the soil. Organic farmers cannot rely on that method and must find a natural alternative…. which is better for the crops and ultimately for us as consumers.

  2. The separation of people from their food sources in the modern world understandably generates a lot of discussion about food and agriculture, little of which is sound. “Food Miles” was an effective marketing initiative because the environmental costs involved were not considered. An excellent discussion of the issue can be found at http://www.mercatus.org/PublicationDetails.aspx?id=24612

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