Here’s a conversation (below – 2 emails become one response) about local vs globally imported foods. There’s really no right way of going about this except to say that you’ve got to look at the whole picture (i.e. lifecycle analysis).
Personally you can never go wrong if you aim to go local, go organic and go fair trade. You’ll be doing your health, your self and the world a favour.
Already knew about the reality of food miles. It’s just an easier concept to understand. The reality is that you have to look at the whole lifecycle.
1. You need to extract oil from the ground which is becoming more difficult and expensive. That also requires energy to start out with. In the process, you release greenhouse gas emissions.
2. You then have to process and refine it which also requires energy and releases greenhouse gas emissions. This may or may not entail further long distance transport which burns more power and releases more GHGe.
3. You then transport your fertilizers or pesticides to your farmer which also burns power and gives off GHGe. Considering that this is done all over the world right now, this is massive.
4. Your farmer then sprays these fertilizers or pesticides on food. The pesticides often don’t break down and poison people’s brains and bodies, leaving residues on produce especially fruits or really soft veggies. The fertilizers are often over used and end up turning into nitrious oxides greenhouse gases (NOx) which are 24X more powerful than carbon alone.
5. Your farmer then has to transport the vegetables and fruits all over the world. Sure planes are only 1% of travel – however they emit over 3X more emissions than other vehicle types (Xuerub 2005; air is 1101 g/t/km vs. 270 for trucks, 130 for dirty ships and 21 for your heavy duty diesel trucks). Well okay it’s still going to be smaller than using trucks at present (though it was growing before the fuel prices started zagging). What point was he making on that again?
So does the author of the Mercatus report get it right? For the most part. We got to think of the points above.
From the Web site of the original report:
“The course of the debate over food miles is nonetheless instructive for policy makers. It highlights the need to remain focused on the issues that are importantin this case, the greenhouse gas emissions of highly subsidized first-world agriculture, the trade imbalances that prevent both developed and developing countries from realizing the mutual benefits of freer trade, biofuel subsidies, and third-world poverty. With the population of the planet growing rapidly, numerous food-policy issues other than food miles should preoccupy policy makers.”
(Yes We Have No Bananas: A Critique of the ‘Food Miles’ Perspective; http://www.mercatus.org/PublicationDetails.aspx?id=24612)
I think the writer missed that security issue – correct me if I’m wrong (I was reading really fast).
Sure we should have agriculture done in the best places for it and transport it out. Yet at the same time we have to realize that it’s deadly dangerous to be so dependent on specific areas for food. With climate change as it is, can anyone be absolutely certain they’ll be good for that in 10 years time? A US report I ran across in 2006 indicated that California would get hit hard by climate chaos while another part of the country would become better for agriculture. I ran across and may have downloaded a report that said something similar for parts of France (wine) or even Italy.
Let’s not forget political instability, wars and more. Where Iraq is used to be one of the food baskets of agriculture in the past. Wars, badly done agriculture (poisoned earth – salt and bad irrigation, watering practices) and other factors destroyed that. The case in point is that – nothing’s for certain (except maybe climate change and man made chemical poisoning).
So can we find the optimal path between all of this? Hell that I know. I just wake up in the morning and get back to the fight. ‘Cause they’re ain’t anything else to do but fight – from the shadows anyway.
Oh, and I’m not saying that we be buy local fanatics or even protectionist (as some might wish to accuse others of). I’m still a huge supporter of fair trade products and things that we cannot reasonably grow here.
Like chocolate. Or acai.
We certainly can’t buy bananas here in North America (not yet anyway). Though I did hear recently that Italians in Guelph and Toronto found a way of growing figs (a mediterranean, warm weather fruit crop for sure) by bending it over and covering it in plastic to create a greenhouse effect.
And someone I recall was working on growing bananas here… in Guelph.
In the end – fair trade, local, organic as much as possible and within reason. (Yes, affordability issues abound – I’m well aware of the values issues – [grins])
On the run,
On 8-Nov-08, at 12:58 PM, Susanna Wong wrote:
Some food for thought (pardon the pun).
Best to print it out before the link expires (it happens sometimes)
Hope things are going well,
SusannaDid you like this? If so, please bookmark it, RSS feed.