Food Miles

When you head out for fish and chips in a coastal town in New Zealand you would assume that the fish are from local waters. However, in Ruatoria – East Cape of the North Island – the fish are from local waters but they were sent to Japan for processing and then exported back to Ruatoria to the fish and chip shop. How bizzare is that! Because New Zealand is a food-producing nation you would assume that what you eat is locally grown.

Every year more than 1.5 million tonnes of food is imported into NZ including:
– pork – lamb- beef – garlic – tomatoes – onions – capsicums – peas – fish

On a more bizzare situation kiwifruit being exported to Europe will have passed containers of kiwifruit being imported to NZ from Italy.

The cost of this global food chain is high with fossil fuels used in the long-distance storage and transportation. However there are other opinions on the Food Miles issue.

A UK advertising campaign suggesting that consumers are essentially eating oil when they buy New Zealand butter are evidence of a strong food miles movement in Europe. Niven Winchester from the University of Otago argued that this movement is being used in Europe by self-interested parties trying to justify protection in another pretext rather than champion environmental concerns. This is because European farm lobby groups apply significant political influence and food miles maybe used to restore support provided by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Onions – where transport emissions account for around two-thirds of all CO2resulting form the supply of New Zealand crops – are the only product for which UK consumers can reduce CO2emissions by favouring domestic produce.

A food miles tax or a change in preference towards local produce may result in greater environmental damage by encouraging consumers to purchase energy-intensive domestic varieties. Ultimately it is the carbon footprint that is the major concern for the environment and it is a much more complicated instrument than saying “This has come from Peru or New Zealand”.

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