Some Carbon With Your Kiwi?
Massimo Sciacca for The New York Times
The New York Times digs up some examples of extravagant and silly food miles. "Cod caught off Norway is shipped to China to be turned into filets, then shipped back to Norway for sale. Argentine lemons fill supermarket shelves on the Citrus Coast of Spain, as local lemons rot on the ground. Half of Europe's peas are grown and packaged in Kenya."
And not just fruit and vegetables; Britain imports -and exports- 15,000 tons of waffles every year. "We're shifting goods around the world in a way that looks really bizarre" says economist Paul Watkiss."We are not paying the environmental cost of all that travel."
One reason is that fuel used for international transport is tax-free, thanks to a treaty signed in 1944 to help the airline industry and still on the books. The ease and cheapness of transportation causes all kinds of distortions; it costs $1.36 per pound to process cod in Norway, so it is shipped to Asia where labour costs are only 23 cents, and then shipped back. No word on whether the fishplant workers in those coastal Norwegian towns are still working or are on unemployment, that is an externality that doesn't show up in the price of fish. Then there is the 28 days of shipping of Kiwi fruit from Spain to New Zealand in refrigerated containers. between the shipping and the power to run the reefer, how much carbon does that produce?
"Food is traveling because transport has become so cheap in a world of globalization," said Frederic Hague, head of Norway's environmental group Bellona. "If it was just a matter of processing fish cheaper in China, I'd be happy with it traveling there. The problem is pollution." ::New York Times
See also the interesting sidebar, the "Hidden cost of food", and analysis of the carbon footprint of a bottle of wine in New York.