Lincoln University torpedoed the food miles debate when it demonstrated that New Zealand’s dairy production was more efficient than the UK’s, even when greenhouse gases were taken in to account.
That hasn’t stopped people trying to persuade us to become locovores because, they say, eating local is better for the environment and the economy.
They are wrong on both counts.
Eating only, or even mostly, locally produced food would restrict what we eat and make it more expensive.
It isn’t necessarily any better for the environment either – 100 trucks travelling 10 kilometres would be no better, and might be worse, than one truck travelling 1000 kilometres.
But transport is only one factor in the debate over whether local produce is better than imports.
Many of our staple foods aren’t local and there are good reasons why they shouldn’t be.
. . . why on earth would you want to try to grow these staple crops “locally”? Wheat grows very well in the Midwest where the climate, soil, and natural rainfall are conducive; it grows extraordinarily well there in large stands that can be fertilized and harvested efficiently. Yields per acre, thanks to the development of advanced strains of wheat and the extensive use of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, have more than tripled in the last century. Worldwide, hybrid varieties and synthetic nitrogen have generated even greater improvements in per-acre yields of rice and other staple food crops. Denounce big-ag all you want; buy local tomatoes all you want; the fact remains that chemical fertilizer, combine harvesters, hybrid crops, and modern transportation networks have done a few billion times more to save the planet than you ever will.
This is a small extract from a well argued post which I recommend reading in full.
If you told me that fresh fruit and vegetables from the home garden taste better than those mass produced and transported long distances, I wouldn’t argue, although my support for that contention would be based on feeling not fact.
But we can’t grow everything we need ourselves and Budiansky shows it’s better for the economy and environment if we don’t.
Hat Tip: Quote Unquote