Food miles: a straw man

Food faddists talk a lot about ‘food miles’ these days. It’s the concept that a dinner bought from a supermarket, instead of from local farmers’ markets, is more polluting due to the distance it’s travelled – tomatoes from Egypt, oranges from Israel, apples from Alpha Centauri, etc etc.

This concept, of course, is a complete straw man.

When the do-gooders talk about how many billions of lightyears my Sunday lunch has travelled, belching barrelloads of CO2 into the atmosphere, they’re calculating it on a erroneous basis – the basis that each 747 from Egypt carries precisely one tomato. (I was on one last week – a 747 I mean, not a tomato – and can state categorically this isn’t true. Although some of my fellow passengers certainly counted as vegetables of some sort.)

An example. That tomato from Egypt carries a sinful load of about 2000 ‘food miles’. However, a cargo 747 will carry… let’s see.. 8000 per cu m… at least 160,000 tomatoes. So my forlorn tomato can dry its eyes, because it’s only responsible for an eightieth of a food mile, about 20m. It’s a ‘green’ tomato after all.

For a local farmer to compete on food miles with Tesco’s supply chain, he’d have to set up his farm in the same street. Not easy in SE8. On a per-tomato basis, the local farmer’s Land Rover delivering to market is probably more polluting than the same amount of produce from Tesco’s pan-galactic supply chain.

So if you buy organic – don’t get smug about saving the planet, because you aren’t. Buy it because it’s better than the rubbery stuff sold in the supermarkets. After all, you’re certainly paying for it.

Whoa, that was quick

It’s already coming true! First two, then six, and now 8 aides have resigned over Blair’s continuing refusal to set his departure date – including one named Chris Mole, who’s probably tired of all the jokes that get made whenever something’s leaked to the press. Come on guys, all we need is a few more (and more senior) resignations and he’s toast. Margaret Beckett: you look like a gal who’d transfer her allegiances in a second – let’s see your P45 pronto. Ruth Kelly – useless lightweight you may be; here you can finally be of some use. Odds are still on him continuing into 2007, but it’s just possible Blair won’t last the month.