It is fashionable these days to decry "food miles." The longer food has spent traveling to your plate, the more oil has been burnt and the more peace has been shattered along the way. But why single out food? Should we not protest against T-shirt miles, too, and laptop miles? After all, fruits and vegetables account for more than 20 percent of all exports from poor countries, whereas most laptops come from rich countries, so singling out food imports for special discrimination means singling out poor countries for sanctions. Two economists recently concluded, after studying the issue, that the entire concept of food miles is a "profoundly flawed sustainability indicator." Getting food from the farmer to the shop causes just 4% of all its lifetime emissions…A New Zealand lamb, shipped to England, requires one-quarter as much carbon to get on to a London plate as a Welsh lamb; a Dutch rose, grown in a heated greenhouse and sold in London, has six times the carbon footprint of a Kenyan rose grown under the sun using water recycled through a fish farm, using geothermal electricity and providing employment to Kenyan women.
That's from page 41 of The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley. I'll post a full review tomorrow.
Caitlin Flanagan, last year in the Atlantic, wrote about Alice Waters "hijacking school curricula" in California to teach a bizarre set of local food ideas to students.
Here's a long Foreign Policy article on why the Whole Foods mantra of "organic, local, slow" is one that may interest rich Americans and Europeans yet profoundly disadvantages the world's hungry millions.
Here's a piece on why organic food is neither healthier to eat nor better for the environment.