A report for Britain’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) debunks the idea of food miles as an indicator of sustainable development.
* the impacts of food transport are complex, and involve many trade-offs between different factors. A single indicator based on total food kilometres travelled would not be a valid indicator of sustainability
* Food transport accounted for an estimated 30 billion vehicle kilometres in 2002, of which 82% are in the UK.It also found production methods mattered and, for example, it can be more sustainable in energy effciency terms, to import tomatoes from Spain than to produce them in heated glasshouses in Britain outside summer.
* Using more local food might increase food miles because fully laden large vehicles would be replaced by more vehicles carrying less.
The report supports research by Lincoln University which found lamb, milk and fruit produced in New Zealand and shipped to Britain produced less CO2 than the same products grown in Britain.
Food miles is a simple concept but this study shows sustainability is complex and can’t be based on only one factor.