So Eating Local Food is Worse Than Flying Grapes in From Chile?

There’s an opinion piece in the NY Times today that argues against local food production being the most environmentally friendly way to get food to your table.

As regular readers know, this is a subject that’s dear to us here at 21st Century Citizen. We believe that supporting local agriculture has many benefits — including promoting biodiversity, giving people more of a stake in their personal food supply chain, promoting local economic growth, and getting better tasting food.

But certainly, reducing the distance your food travels should have an impact on the amount of energy required to produce, package and get it to your table? Shouldn’t it?

Well, today’s NY Times presents an argument for the opposite. Here’s a snippet:

But is reducing food miles necessarily good for the environment? Researchers at Lincoln University in New Zealand, no doubt responding to Europe’s push for “food miles labeling,” recently published a study challenging the premise that more food miles automatically mean greater fossil fuel consumption. Other scientific studies have undertaken similar investigations. According to this peer-reviewed research, compelling evidence suggests that there is more — or less — to food miles than meets the eye.

The article is worth reading completely, so I recommend you do so.

But in the end, it seems to say that localfood in and of itself is not a cure-all. It’s simply one part of what needs to be a coordinated approach to create a sustainable food supply that will support us as we move forward into the 21st Century.

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4 thoughts on “So Eating Local Food is Worse Than Flying Grapes in From Chile?

  1. An interesting article, thanks for pointing it out to us.

    I agree that local food seems naturally like it should have a lower environmental impact — and the article mentions nothing about genetically modified foods or the other issues with factory farming.

  2. I absolutely welcome articles like this that encourage people to look at the complexities of food systems and think about what makes sense. Although I indulged in the occasional Backyard Beauty this past winter, I understood that just because it was local didn’t make it efficient. But I think the Eat Local movement in general helps people to think a little more about their food – and we can also start emphasizing all of the other benefits to eating locally in addition to food miles.

    The Boston Globe had a similar article a couple weeks ago, and Jen Maiser had a well-wriiten response: http://www.eatlocalchallenge.com/2007/07/boston-globe-th.html

    glad to see so much coverage of the eat local issues here!

  3. Thanks for your comment and the pointer to the Globe article.

    And I agree with your comment as well — let’s engage in a discussion and work to understand what the overall best way to manage food supply is, rather than just assume local food is the answer.

    I believe local food is at least *part* of the answer, but we need to be open to a variety of ideas.

    Thanks for your comment!

  4. Pingback: Greenmonk Associates : On Clover-choked New Zealand, Christine Keeler and Food Miles

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