Food Miles: The Debate Continues To Confuse Consumers

Food Miles: The Debate Continues To Confuse Consumers

In the UK when people had just decided that buying local food was the greenest option, recent research funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) shows this may not be the case. As a result the food miles debate continues to further confuse people. To date the “food miles” debate decreed that anything transported over distance is worse for the environment than something closer to home.

However the reality is more complex: while some foods may well be better on grounds of transport alone, they may be less kind to the environment when it comes to the amount of energy used in producing them. This is especially true of foods which are produced using artificial chemicals and fertilisers as it takes a lot of energy to produce and transport the chemicals and fertilisers and then the emissions released when they are used are harmful to the environment. So to really quantify the energy embodied in food production it is necessary to calculate everything from “field to fork” not just from “farm gate to plate”.

Facts to consider when choosing your food include issues such as transport, organically or conventionally produced, heated or unheated polytunnels, type of food the animals have been fed, where the animal feed comes from and how much of that is imported.

Kate Carmody Chairperson of IOA recognises that “all of these issues are important when assessing how green our food is. However it is also confusing for the consumer as many of these issues are not stated on the label eg how the product was transported to Ireland. In the current climate we would urge people that it is important to buy Irish products to ensure that money stays within the Irish economy. If you want to ensure that your purchases are truly green buy organic food produced in Ireland. This not only ensures that you are making the right choice environmentally but also economically”.

The Irish Organic Association (IOFGA) is the largest organic certification organisation in Ireland representing approx 1,150 farmers, growers and processors. It is responsible for certifying the organic provenance of its members produce and the IOA symbol indicates that a product has met the highest standard or organic integrity. IOA also works to inform the public about the benefits of organic food and to support the development of organic food production in Ireland.

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For further information please contact:

Grace Maher,
Development Officer IOFGA
Tel 087 6125989