We've heard all about English newspapers going on about food miles. Here's an example. My colleague, Tim Arrowsmith, was recently in Britain and the jargon of environmentalism is the new regligion - and often it has similar consequences: observance is often in forms rather than in spirit.
Like recent exhortations that included not buying NZ wine. These have been identified as a threat to many of our exporters - and they are. They are also a threat to the environment, because the concept of food miles is dim. I am not against including an idea of the carbon impact of a product. But dumbing this down to food miles doesn't help.
One shipload of kiwi goods will usually involve much less carbon expenditure than 10,000 people driving an extra 5 miles in their cars to buy local food at a farmer's market.
This fact has been spotted by the carbon trust - their work is profiled in this article.But even their 'carbon footprint' labels will not help much.
They give the charming example of potatoes - yes, local involves less carbon - but if you boil them forgetting to put a lid on the pot your potatoes may as well have come from Timbucktoo.
The more we look at the overly simplistic concept of food miles the more it looks like protectionism in drag. The best way to get consumers to consider carbon in the purchasing decisions is to price carbon, and it'll end up in the price. Then they don't even have to read the label - their wallets will make them carbon saints.