International trade related food miles – The case of Canada
At the beginning of the 21st century imports of agricultural and food commodities have become a major part of many nations’ food baskets. Indeed the global food system has several merits for nations, businesses and individual consumers’ well-being. However, as increasing evidence suggests that we are approaching an era of climate change and scarcity of cheap energy sources the sustainability of that system must be examined. One part of any food commodity chain is its ‘food miles’ – the distance the commodity travels from point of production to point of consumption, the required energy and resulting emissions. This paper presents a 1 year ‘snapshot’ of Canada’s total import related food miles. It presents an analysis of the distance imported foods traveled from around the world to major points of consumption in Canada and documents the equivalent carbon dioxide emissions related to those imports. It presents both a macro scale picture of the equivalent emissions related to transportation of imported food and a micro scale picture which focuses on specific commodities consumed in various parts of the country. It then discusses policy implications for food sustainability. Overall the research highlights that about 30% of the agricultural and food commodities consumed in Canada are imported, resulting in ‘food miles’ of over 61billiontonneskm, leading to annual emissions of 3.3 million metric tonnes of CO2. Of the various agriculture and food commodities studied, fruits and vegetables had the highest food miles related emissions.
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