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Food miles to assess sustainability: A revision

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ABSTRACT

Sustainability assessment is an essential process in our aim to reach a more sustainable production and consumption pattern. This research revises the food miles concept as a guiding tool to assess sustainability. Food miles measure the distance that food travels from where it is grown or raised to where it is consumed. Three different concepts to assess sustainability are described: (i) food miles, (ii) enhanced food miles, (iii) food chain sustainability. An illustrative case study shows that there is a strong danger of oversimplification when using food miles as an assessment tool. Second, the food miles concept can be enhanced with all relevant transport externalities taking into account different transport modes and transport (in)efficiency. Third, all relevant economic, social, and ecological aspects should be taken into account. Besides transport externalities, also externalities caused by food production, food packaging, food marketing, and food consumption should be incorporated. Moreover, the trade-off with development goals cannot be neglected. As a consequence, there is a strong danger of incommensurability as the result of different sustainability model assumptions and unclear system boundaries. Nevertheless, sustainability assessment can enrich policy making and support tailored policy measures to improve food chain sustainability. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.

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