One hesitates to agree with Ron Bailey given his doctrinaire libertarianism, but in a somewhat narrow sense I think he’s right about this: in terms of greenhouse-gas emissions, food localism is a red herring.

That is to say: Eating local out of concern over carbon emissions is misguided. Food travel is not a big part of America’s collective emissions or most individuals’ emissions. And miles traveled is not always a reliable indicator of emissions — hothouse vegetables grown locally may be responsible for more emissions than traditionally grown veggies flown overseas.

Building regional, human-scale food networks has considerable merit — social, economic, and culinary (taste) benefits. But foodies should push for such networks on the basis of those benefits, and not try to piggyback on broader concern over climate change. It will allow folks like Bailey to toss out the baby with the bathwater.

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