Food Miles

The Prime Minister, Helen Clark, went to Germany after the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference. In Germany she made a speech about the environment and what New Zealand is doing to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Even though New Zealand is a small country, she said we need to take the lead on climate change.

Helen Clark met with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to talk about food miles. Germany is an important trading country for us but like many European countries, they are worried about the distance that food has to travel and the carbon dioxide from transporting food, especially by plane.

Meanwhile New Zealand is worried about this talk of New Zealand’s food producing a lot of carbon dioxide to get to overseas markets. A big supermarket chain in Britain, Tescos, is planning to label all imported food with the number of miles it has to travel. Helen Clark talked about some research done by Massey University which showed that New Zealand farmers are very good at farming and they do not produce a lot of carbon dioxide. They are lucky to have good weather and grass so that animals can stay outside all year round. She said that British farming produces four times more carbon dioxide than New Zealand farming. To measure just food miles is too simple. It does not give the true cost to the environment of producing food. Tescos should also look at good farming practice.

Another important point is that most of New Zealand’s main exports, such as meat and butter, travel by ship not by plane. This means they are more environmentally friendly. Overseas markets are very important to us for our food exports and we need to do more to show we care about the environment.

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