James Forsyth

Miles off

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‘Food miles’ is one of the new eco buzz phrases and makes people think that buying local food is inherently better for the environment. But an op-ed in the New York Times today flags up some new research that shows this is not the case when you consider all the energy used in producing the food not just the amount of CO2 emitted while transporting it.

Here’s the key point about what the researchers discovered:

“they found that lamb raised on New Zealand’s clover-choked pastures and shipped 11,000 miles by boat to Britain produced 1,520 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per ton while British lamb produced 6,280 pounds of carbon dioxide per ton, in part because poorer British pastures force farmers to use feed. In other words, it is four times more energy-efficient for Londoners to buy lamb imported from the other side of the world than to buy it from a producer in their backyard. Similar figures were found for dairy products and fruit.”

So, don’t stop buying any foreign food. Indeed, it would be absurd if concern over global warming was to become another excuse for agricultural protectionism.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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