Owen Hembry: Food miles issue still a vital one

Owen Hembry writing in the Herald about the latest NZIER report on food miles.

An excerpt from the column, published in full here.

Exports to the UK, Germany and France would drop significantly if the food miles issue started impacting on consumer behaviour, although these exports would largely be redirected towards other markets such as Asia, where there was less concern.

A European Union survey found 21 per cent of European consumers had bought locally made products or groceries during the past year because of environmental reasons, Ballingall says. “Not necessarily food miles as a very narrow issue but concerns about environmental issues and ethical issues are certainly still there.”

Scientists, economists and informed readers understand that food miles as a narrow measure is not a good measure of environmental impact.

“So I think it would be fair to say we dispelled some of those myths a while back. But there’s a difference between that and getting to the average Joe in the UK supermarket who is still going to think if something’s come from 12,000 miles away it’s going to be more damaging to the environment.”

Action during the past two years in particular has been positive and calmed things down, with no huge demand response to date and some companies measuring and trying to reduce greenhouse gas footprints.