Eating locally produced fare may be worse for the world than buying produce from faraway developing nations, the UK’s Scotsman newspaper reports.

The idea of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by trimming “food miles” (the distance from farm to plate) has become something of a rallying cry for environmentalists recently—particularly in the UK, where headline-grabbing environment secretary David Miliband has even suggested placing economic penalties on non-local foods. But a sustainable-development nonprofit argues that flying fresh fruits and vegetables into the country from sub-Saharan Africa actually represents “less than 0.1 percent of total UK carbon emissions.”

Environmental-justice groups also warn that by aiming to reduce food miles, shoppers may unwittingly throw a monkey-wrench into the social and economic development of African countries, which are very dependent on farm exports.

Things are a bit different in the U.S., where I would wager less of our food comes from Africa and more from South and Central America, as well as faraway parts of our own (much larger) country. And as my fave food philosopher Peter Singer reports, some studies have shown that we ‘Muricans use between 1 and 2 percent of our annual energy for transporting food. Still, is that enough to justify a large-scale eat-local movement? Or should locavores just give it up and start supporting some developing nations for a change?

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