When Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, tried to order an organic chicken from Virginia farmer Joel Salatin, the man refused. He didn’t want his carefully raised products to be shipped to New York. It was against his beliefs to farm without chemicals, only to put his food on the back of a truck spewing other chemicals.
Britain is looking at a similar paradigm, as the organization that certifies most of the country’s organic produce considers a ban on organic produce flown in from other countries. These organic imports are said to be responsible for 11 percent of the carbon emissions produced by the transport of British food, coming as they do from Thailand (5,900 miles), Zambia (4,900 miles), and Egypt (2,200 miles).
According to an article in the Telegraph, “Some experts believe it is wrong for food to be labelled organic when it has been flown thousands of miles to Britain and could be several weeks old by the time it reaches shops.”
British food retailers are considering how to deal with the issue. Grocery store chain Tesco recently introduced “By Air” stickers for products that have been shipped into Britain. “Everyone seems to have turned their back on the good veg we can grow here,” says Sid Haselton, a produce wholesaler with 40 years in the business. Though grocery giant Sainsbury’s protests, “Where we can source British, we do.”
Of course, the bigger question with food miles is whether or not British (and North American) consumers are willing to give up their raspberries in January, asparagus in February, and tropical fruit that isn’t locally in season … ever.