Monday, April 28, 2008

On balance, does the Earth benefit from shipping organic foods transcontinentally?

Beyond the food-crisis concerns that newest IntLawGrrl Rebecca Bratspies raises today (in a post that joins others of recent weeks), there's another concern to ponder:
Does it help the planet to buy organic foods if they traveled halfway 'round the globe to reach our plate? Or, as The New York Times put it Saturday, want "Some Carbon With Your Kiwi?"
That was the teaser for "The Environmental Cost of Shipping Groceries All Over the World," an excellent article by Elisabeth Rosenthal (below left).
Among the transcontinental food movement that Rosenthal cites:
Britain ... imports -- and exports -- 15,000 tons of waffles a year, and similarly exchanges 20 tons of bottled water with Australia.
The result's predictable:

[P]ollution -- especially carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas -- from transporting the food.

Perhaps, then, we ought to add an aphorism to prior suggestion of biodiversity dieting: Think globally, eat locally.


Naomi Norberg said...

I recently read, though, that shipping lamb from New Zealand to England can actually be more environmentally friendly than buying lamb raised in England because of the more environmentally friendly methods of NZ ranchers. If they could ship them on tall ships rather than supertankers, the carbon footprint would be much easier to calculate, of course.

Unknown said...

Buying locally is not always the right solution to lower the carbon footprint, as the NYT article also points out. Transport of the end product is just one aspect in the production process and not the only one that consumes energy...