Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Fight foodmiles now

Phil Goff has missed the point. Tesco's plan wont hurt New Zealand exporters in itself, but the philosophical mantra behind food miles does, and it is almost universally unquestioned. I have yet to see a single item on British TV questioning food miles, and the items in the newspapers are rare indeed. You see, the food miles myth is as good as fact in the minds of many many consumers in the UK.
If you are a NZ farmer, read very very carefully, your livelihood is at stake. Whether or not you believe global warming is occurring, and regardless of your political philosophy, you need to take an initiative, together to fight the propaganda coming from the European farming sector, many European politicians and the mass media about "food miles". Why? It is becoming also quasi-religious to "avoid food miles and save the planet", when you and I both know things are far from that simple.
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You could embark on a campaign denying global warming, but frankly that is a bigger battle and one you are poorly equipped to fight. However, what you can fight is the "food miles" faith, based on evidence.
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The entire NZ agricultural export sector needs to take out full page ads in the Guardian, the Independent, the Times and the Daily Telegraph (not cheap) for starters (and then work on the rest of Europe) explaining the carbon footprint for NZ lamb vs UK lamb, NZ butter and cheese vs UK butter and cheese. You might also explain how much you might sell these products to the UK market if the EU didn't impose quotas and tariffs, let alone the effect of subsidising your competitors.
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You need to do it this year, and if you can use television as well, then the better. This campaign will cost multiple tens of millions of dollars, but you need to do it.
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The food miles fad isn't just followed by a minority of environmentalists in the UK, it is accepted mainstream mantra. You want proof? Well see these reports in the past few weeks in ALL major UK media outlets:
- The Independent (French rather than NZ wine) and again;
- Guardian and again;
- BBC and again and again and again.
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I live in the UK, I hear "food miles" nearly every day from somewhere and it is frustrating, but it has caught on. Naive reporters on television urge people at every turn to think about food miles, and New Zealand is mentioned rather frequently. No Right Turn is spot on that it is time to wake up and realise what a threat this is. While I don't agree with Sue Kedgley that some farmers should target markets closer to home, and that the sector should buy into carbon footprints as the be all and end all, sacrificing other factors for competitiveness, she is right that this is changing consumer behaviour.
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On a side note, I haven't heard that the British Greens have written back to the NZ Greens about food miles, after Russel Norman wrote to correct misinformation about food miles. I guess this says a lot about how committed British Greens are to the environment rather than protectionism.
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By the way, these two reports remain the main evidence i know of to date about why food miles are a bad proxy for environmental impact. You can't publicise these enough.

3 comments:

Insolent Prick said...

Yet more mechanisms for the fucking EU to make it harder to trade with them, by allowing pinko-greenies to come up with stupid fucking ideas that aren't based in reality.

Starting to hear about food miles here a lot more. It's completely fucking insulting.

Excellent post.

uk_kiwi said...

We ignore this trend at our peril, given that agriculture is such a huge part of NZ's economy. The power of consumer choice should not be underestimated- there are a lot of alternatives to NZ products available on european supermarket shelves.

At the very least, there could be something on the packaging comparing the carbon footprint, as 'educated consumers' tend to read labels.

However those NZ companies using airfreight would have to re-examine their business model- the food miles argument is accurate if airfreight is the transport method used.

libertyscott said...

The other point is that 50% of UK food miles are in getting to the shops!! Short of growing their own, it puts it in some perspective