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March 23, 2008 / Mridul

Food Miles Dilemma: Grow Only The “Really Green” Vegetables


You have to take into account emissions that occurred in the farmyard, for example. Cows and sheep produce methane, which is far more damaging a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Similarly, fertilizers produce nitrogen oxides that are also dangerous. Then you have the issue of transport and processing. Taking a sheep to the slaughterhouse produces carbon emissions, for instance. Cooking is another factor. That requires heat that in turn releases carbon dioxide. After that you need to store products. That often requires refrigeration, which requires electricity, which releases carbon dioxide. Estimating how long a product will be kept in a store and how efficient is its refrigeration is not easy to assess, but it has to be done.
Then you have to work out how long your product will be kept at home once it has been purchased. You also have to estimate how efficiently it will be cooked. And finally you have to work out how much carbon is involved in its packaging and how much will be emitted in disposing of those wrappers and labels once discarded.

How the myth of food miles hurts the planet – The Observer

Yes these are the problem issues related to the issue of food miles (and carbon emissions produced during transportation of food items) when mass production is taken into account. But I believe it would be wrong to generalize these problems for all kinds of organic and backyard farms.

The article rightly points put that the issue of food miles isn’t all that simple anymore and those of us who are conscious about the carbon emitted during our foods’ journey from the farm to the table need to do some brainstorming on this issue, as I said before is no more ‘a walk in the park’. Surely a majority of the vegetables and fruits can’t be grown in the backyard without the use of hazardous fertilizers or the traditional framing techniques which might be harmful for the environment but there are few items (like tomatoes and grapes) which can be grown without the use of any of the big environmental-degrading farm activities.

The companies need to provide adequate information about the total carbon emitted during the production and transportation of various food items and many, like chocolate giant Cadburys, are doing the same. Groups like the Soil Association, which recently switched sides in favor of air-freighted organic food, need to educate the consumers about the things going on in the organic farmlands and poultries around the world. Those in the western countries who wish to grow their food themselves can also learn a thing or two from farmers in the developing countries for they use relatively cheap and environment-friendly farm techniques (like use of cow muck as fertilizer).

It is obvious that the backyard vegetable gardens cannot replace the big traditional farmlands but still it is possible to grow at least some of our vegetable needs ourselves. Food items that don’t require traditional (and potentially polluting) farm techniques – which include use of methane emitting cattle, oil-based fertilizers or fuel guzzling tractors – can be easily grown by the consumers themselves.


One Comment

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  1. Derek Wall / Mar 23 2008 10:30 pm

    There is quite a big propaganda effort in my view to muddy the water over the huge growth in air freighting of food…my take on this is here

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