Almost one-fifth of global food-related greenhouse emissions come from transport, a University of Sydney study claims.
Modelling showed food and produce transport creates about three gigatonnes of emissions annually, equivalent to 19 per cent of the overall industry.
The figure is about six per cent of the planet's total greenhouse emissions.
"Our study estimates global food systems, due to transport, production, and land use change, contribute about 30 per cent of total human-produced greenhouse gas emissions," lead author Dr Mengyu Li said.
"So, food transport - at around six per cent - is a sizeable proportion of overall emissions."
Australia is the second largest exporter of food transport emissions, given the breadth and volume of its primary production.
High-income countries were disproportionate contributors, with the US, Germany, France, and Japan generating 46 per cent of food transport emissions despite making up 12.5 per cent of the global population.
Nutritional ecologist and co-author, Professor David Raubenheimer, said eating locally could curb emissions.
"One example is the habit of consumers in affluent countries demanding unseasonal foods year-round, which need to be transported from elsewhere," he said.
"Eating local seasonal alternatives, as we have throughout most of the history of our species, will help provide a healthy planet for future generations."
The study, to be published in scientific journal Nature Food, used data from the university-led FoodLab and incorporated analysis of 74 countries and 37 economic sectors.
Researchers investigated 'food-miles' - the distance travelled by food from the point of production to consumption.
Emissions estimates were made on the back of a global food expenditure of about US$5 trillion in 2017.
Australian Associated Press
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