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Food Miles Claims Miss the Target

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Trade

30 October 2006
Media statement

Food Miles Claims Miss the Target

Calls by former United Kingdom cabinet minister Stephen Byers for a tax based on miles travelled by agricultural products to their market are utterly inconsistent with claims that this is the way to reduce global emissions, says Trade Minister Phil Goff.

"As the United Kingdom Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs made clear last year, food miles do not take into account the total energy use or CO2 emissions associated with producing and delivering a product to market", Phil Goff said.

"Calls for food miles to be used in fact contradict the goal of reducing global emissions and are often a thinly disguised appeal for self-interested protectionism.

"The evidence for that is in a study done by Lincoln University this year.

"That study proved that the energy used in producing lamb, for example, in the United Kingdom is four times higher than the energy used by New Zealand lamb producers even after including the energy used in transporting New Zealand lamb to the United Kingdom.

"The study showed that for other horticultural products such as onions and apples, the energy use to produce these goods in the United Kingdom was also substantially higher than in New Zealand, even after the transport and storage costs involved in getting them to the market was taken into account.

"It is also dishonest for Mr Byers to use as an example air freighting kiwifruit from New Zealand to the United Kingdom when in fact all such produce is shipped by sea.

"That shows either shoddy research on his part or dishonesty or naivety in using such an example.

"Global emissions are a serious problem but the answer to reducing them does not lie in protectionist sentiment leading to producing goods domestically at much higher energy and environment costs than importing them from where they can most efficiently be produced", Mr Goff said.


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