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U.S. government examines food choices' carbon footprint

Does choosing local foods really make a difference? That's one of the questions the U.S. House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming is considering as they present “Food for Thought: Sustainability from Counter to Compost” in Washington today.

According to the release, the committee, led by Chairman Edward Markey (D-Mass.), will "start a process to look into the choices our nation makes on food and agriculture and how those choices affect our environment, specifically the 'carbon footprint' of how we grow, raise, transport, package, dispose of and otherwise provide sustenance to Americans and people around the world. And while changing the way the world creates and consumes energy is the most effective way to combat global warming, so-called “lifestyle” choices like the food we eat will play an increasing role in how to make immediate cuts in the pollution that causes global warming."

Here are a few of their noteworthy statistics:

-- A 1999 British study showed that the purchase of local apples resulted in an almost 3,000 percent reduction in energy use and 87 percent lower carbon dioxide emissions than apples imported from New Zealand.

--Produce in the U.S. travels, on average, 1,300 – 2,000 miles from farm to consumer.

--A 2006 International Solid Waste Foundation study predicted that by 2025, food waste will increase by 44% worldwide.

--When food waste rots it releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that landfills account for 34 percent of all methane emissions in the United States.

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