Vote with Your Mouth
Smokestacks and fumes from cars and trucks — not the innocent roast beef dinner we prepared with love — are responsible for the horrible greenhouse gas emissions warming the planet.
Not quite, argues Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in his report, Food NYC: A Blueprint for a Sustainable Food System. The food system, the report contends, is a major emitter of the noxious gases and should be studied and made part of PlaNYC, an initiative to reduce the city’s greenhouse gases by 30 percent by 2030.
“The fact that the City’s food system is a major producer of greenhouse gas emissions is a dirty, not-so-little secret,” said Stringer in a statement. “It’s admirable that the Mayor has committed to reducing the City’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent by 2030, but what’s missing from his initiative is recognition of the role that food plays in this process.”
The report claims that the food system — from farm production and processing to distribution and disposal — is responsible for one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Agricultural growing practices account for the bulk of those emissions, according to the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, a research organization and advocate of sustainable farms.
“Somewhere between 50 and 83 percent of emissions occur before food even leaves the farm gate,” writes IATP in a paper titled Agriculture and Climate —The Critical Connection.
FoodNYC points to studies in London and Sweden. The London study — conducted in 2008 to calculate the emissions associated with the food eaten by its residents — found that the local food sector produced about 19 million tons of carbon dioxide annually and identified measures to reduce those emissions. Sweden’s study — a look at food consumption nationally — led to a pilot program to label carbon dioxide emissions on certain grocery items and restaurant menus.
Following Europe’s lead, the Manhattan Borough President’s report calls for legislation that will require city agencies to estimate the emissions of the food it procures.
The Department of Education, a huge institutional buyer of food, could not comment on the proposal. “We are reviewing the report,” it said in a statement.
The report argues that urban dwellers help reduce climate change by buying as much local food as possible from growers that use sustainable agricultural practices. With the majority of people living in cities for the first time in history, urbanites can be a powerful force against climate change, the report contends.
“I’m looking forward to the day when testing for emissions falls under the purview of the Health Department, rather than the Department of Motor Vehicles,” said Stringer in a statement.