The sustainable tomato

I love teaching at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. I have so many colleagues (students, too) who explain the mysteries of the world to me. In today’s Canada’s National Observer, for instance, Dr. Michael Bomford, who teaches in my school’s prestigious Sustainable Agriculture program, clues me in on the topic of tomato provenance:

“A tomato grown in a Mexican field and trucked north is about six times more climate-friendly than one raised in a Canadian gas-heated greenhouse.” How come? “In B.C., we’ve opted to use Dutch-style heated greenhouse systems … extremely high-yielding systems if you look at the output per square meter of the greenhouse itself. The problem, of course, is that the energy input that is going into that system is also massive,” Bomford explains.

“Very often, the argument is made that if we had (more) local heated greenhouses, we’re going to cut down on fossil fuel use associated with trucking or shipping food from distant locations,” he said. “Yet when you run the numbers, you find that the energy and greenhouse gas emissions associated with trucking or shipping is far less than the local production of a product in a heated greenhouse.”

“I think the reality is that it’s going to be hard to find a truly sustainable tomato in January in B.C. or anywhere in Canada,” he said. “But food miles are a poor indicator of sustainability, what I’d like to see is production systems that are truly a part of the place where they exist — and that doesn’t necessarily mean that all our food comes from right next door.”

KPU School of Horticulture FB page

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