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Julia Tier
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Our 'Foodprint:' It's Not Just the Miles

WASHINGTON - Our environmental "foodprint" is determined not just by how far food
travels, but also by what we eat and how it was produced, according to
the latest issue of World Watch magazine. Final delivery from
producer and processor to the point of retail sale accounts for only 4
percent of the U.S. food system's greenhouse gas emissions. Overall
transportation, which includes so-called "upstream miles" and emissions
associated with the transport of fertilizer, pesticides, and animal
feed, accounts for about 11 percent of the food system's emissions,
according to Sarah DeWeerdt, author of "Is Local Food Better?"

In this first installment of a two-part series on the potential impacts
of greater food localization, DeWeerdt explains that if what you eat
matters as much as how far it travels, then red meat and dairy
production remain agriculture's overwhelming "hotspots." The United
Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that livestock
account for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions-more than all
forms of fossil fuel-based transport combined.

Citing a study by Christopher Weber and H. Scott Matthews of Carnegie
Mellon University, DeWeerdt explains that agricultural production
accounts for the bulk of the food system's greenhouse gas emissions.
"In the United States, 83 percent of emissions occur before food even
leaves the farm gate," writes DeWeerdt.

Look for part two of this series in the July/August issue of World Watch, which will examine the economic implications of greater food localization.


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The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization recognized by opinion leaders around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues. Its mission is to generate and promote insights and ideas that empower decision makers to build an ecologically sustainable society that meets human needs.

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