Organic food is big business these days. Organic fruit and vegetables are hot items because everyone wants to feel like they are eating healthier. What hasn't been studied until now is the impact of organic business on the environment, namely in greenhouse gas emissions from transport.
A new study, conducted by a team of student researchers in the Department of Rural Economy at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, showed that the greenhouse gas emitted when the produce is transported from great distances mitigates the environmental benefits of growing the food organically.
“If you’re buying ‘green’, you should consider the distance the food travels. If it’s travelling further, then some of the benefits of organic crops are cancelled out by extra environmental costs,” said researcher Vicki Burtt.
Burtt and her fellow researchers compared the cost of ‘food miles’ between organic and conventionally grown produce, and found that there was little difference in the cost to the environment.
Food miles are defined as the distance that food travels from the field to the grocery store. The study found that the environmental cost of greenhouse gas (CO2) emitted to transport 20 tonnes of organically grown produce was comparable to that of bringing the same amount of conventional fruit and vegetables to market.
For the study, the team collected retail price data from six grocery stores and interviewed suppliers about their shipping methods. They created comparable food baskets of both organic and conventionally-grown fruit and vegetables being transported to Edmonton stores by truck, train or ship, and found that most travels by truck. Since 1970 truck shipping has increased, replacing more energy-efficient rail and water transport.
The researchers calculated that the annual environmental costs for a city the size of Edmonton were $135,000 to $183,000 (5,492-7,426 tons CO2) for conventional produce and $156,000 to $175,000 (6,348-7,124 tons CO2) for organic produce. Many of the organic products are traveling further than the conventional food. Two items in particular, mangoes and green peppers, were shipped much further than their conventional counterparts (4,217 and 1,476 kilometers, respectively). The mangoes were shipped from Ecuador and Peru as opposed to Mexico, and the peppers came from Mexico as opposed to Canada or the United States.
To help reduce greenhouse gases, Burtt recommends that shoppers switch to buying locally produced food at grocery stores or farmers’ markets when possible, and that any future government policy on the environment should consider the reduction of CO2 emissions associated with food transport.
The study also found that a large gap between total costs and the much higher price paid in the store for organic produce indicates that retailers could cover the environmental costs without further passing those costs on to the consumer.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Kudos To "The Independent" Newspaper For Debunking Nibiru "Blood Moon" Hoax
- Your Microbiome Did Not Cause Your Weight Problem
- A Great Blitz Game
- Gödel,Frenkel, Kurzweil, and Hawkins on AI
- Control Cancer By Making The Tumor Cell Environment Hostile
- Free Market Validation: Men With Hair Transplants Are Seen As Younger, More Attractive
- It's Not The Nicotine: US Teens More Likely To Vape For Flavorings
- "Its very much real mr walker and im scared to death now and i mean really really scared ..."
- "Great, glad to hear it and thanks for signing the petition :)...."
- "Well, I´m not worried anymore about nibiru, because I know is a hoax afterall and also I sign..."
- "Thanks, Skynix, glad you like the articles. Yes of course, to many readers of Science20 then what..."
- "Yes that's a good point, the Moon can look reddish just as the sun does when close to the horizon..."
- Gallup Poll: Great Example of How to Bias a Social Science Study
- Another Kardashian Craze Debunked
- Fad Friday: Ditch The Body Wrap!
- Commonly Cited Stat of 10 Bacteria for Every 1 Human Cell Is Wrong
- Why The EpiPen And Other Generic Drugs Are So Expensive
- Latest IARC Report Connects Fatness with More Cancers
- Solving a 48-year-old mystery: Scientists grow noroviruses in human intestinal cell cultures
- Scripps Florida scientists shed new light on the role of calcium in learning and memory
- Volcanic eruption masked acceleration in sea level rise
- Sunflowers move from east to west, and back, by the clock
- Earlier snowmelt reduces forests' ability to regulate atmospheric carbon dioxide