This is one of the most ingrained myths when it comes to sustainable food systems. Instead, it is worth thinking about what we eat (more vegetables, less meat) and how this is produced because transport is responsible for only about 6 percent of global food emissions.
Bloomberg reported on a new study published by researchers from the University of Sydney, Beijing Technology and Business University and Wuhan University in the renowned scientific journal Nature Food. They state that the emissions of food transport are up to 7.5 times higher than previously estimated. The article also stresses that “fruits and vegetables are particularly carbon intensive due to handling and their need for refrigeration during transport.”
But a careful observation points out that the study takes into account only one data, mainly that of transport, without considering that in the cycle there is a phase
1) before and during production: emissions related to the production and transport of fertilizers, business machinery and other inputs
2) Post-harvest: Emissions associated with the transport of food from farm to final consumer, usually referred to as “food miles.”
So when we talk about local vs. global eating we find that consumers are more interested in how far away from them the food has traveled, not so much where the farmer’s tractor comes from, where gasoline and fertilizer have been manufactured and shipped.
In addition, the researchers also speculate that all vegetables are refrigerated during transport, increasing emissions due to increased energy requirements, but this is also not true. Only a few perishable fruits and vegetables such as berries, green leafy vegetables and zucchini are refrigerated as opposed to shelf products such as apples and most root vegetables. Many countries around the world still do not have temperature-controlled supply chains (leading to more food waste). This means that the current transport of plants has lower emissions than the researchers assume.
Local food is not a winning solution to eat sustainably. Saving a few miles of food makes only a marginal difference to emissions.
To summarize, the study did not establish a new truth about food and transportation.
So you can say that local food is not a winning solution to eat sustainably.
Saving a few miles of food makes only a marginal difference to emissions. As a recent meta-analysis of two decades of research into local food systems shows, there are other benefits to buying local food, but they are less simple and have more warnings than we often think.