Keywords: agricultural imports, food miles, environmental impact, economic valuation, agricultural resources, ecological impact, local produce, imported produce, Israel, water scarcity, production, transportation, water treatment, social impact, economic impact, sustainable development, sustainability, rural areas
Assessing the impacts of local and imported produce on the public and the environment
European environmental groups have been calling to switch from imported agricultural produce to locally grown produce, citing positive social and economic impacts as well as environmental ones; and especially the benefit of reducing the environmental pollution and greenhouse gas emissions caused by long-distance food transportation. In Israel, in contrast, there have been calls to increase agricultural imports in order to reduce the pressure on Israel's scarce water resources. To examine these contradicting claims, we compared the impacts of imported and locally grown agricultural produce for Israel's main imported crops, including the impacts of production, transportation, and water treatment. The analysis included the social impact of the agricultural scenery, the economic impact of the growers' profits and the environmental impacts on human health, including climate change. We concluded that for all the crops examined, except for potatoes, sustainable development is best served by local production rather than imports.