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• This note discusses whether consumers should be concerned at how far food has travelled before they buy it. A related note is Food Security – UK Policy (SN/SC/4985).

• The original food miles idea was that the distance that farm produce had travelled before consumption was a good indicator of the amount of CO2 that had been emitted.

• That idea has been seriously challenged, because transport accounts for only a very small proportion of the CO2 emissions from farm produce.

• In some cases, carbon emissions are much lower for items produced in tropical countries rather than in temperate countries. In other cases, emissions are much lower when they come from the most efficient source.

• Some people argue that food labels should have more detailed information about the environmental impact of that item. Others argue that such a requirement would make labels too complex and probably not greatly affect consumer behaviour.

• The Soil Association agreed, after long consultation, to monitor the use of air freight for organic produce, but not to require special labelling for it.

• The Government encourages sustainability in food provision, but not specifically reduction in food miles.

• In 2009, the EU banned a Swedish campaign to buy local.


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