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The researchers found that more than 99 percent of the produce grown in Santa Barbara County is exported, and more than 95 percent of the produce consumed in the county is imported, some of it from as far away as Chile, Argentina, and New Zealand.

The study also found that, surprisingly, if all produce consumed here was grown in the county, it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions less than 1 percent of total agrifood system emissions, and it would not necessarily affect nutrition. "Most of what's grown here is shipped out," Cleveland said while standing in a tomato field about a mile from the UCSB campus. "And most of what's eaten here is shipped in. That just seems crazy."

Corie Radka, second author of the study and a recent UCSB environmental studies and zoology graduate, added: "I think that, for people living in Santa Barbara County, it's a privilege that a lot of Middle America doesn't have. We have so much produce here, so much healthy food here, so you just assume there's localization, which results in better nutrition and decreased environmental impact. If that can't happen here, how can it happen anywhere else?

"Other research has shown that direct transport doesn't contribute that much greenhouse gas compared to other parts of the agrifood life cycle," Radka added. "It's called the local food trap. The word 'local' should mean better nutrition, and a decrease in greenhouse gases, but that's not necessarily so."


 

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