The findings appeared to vindicate former Defra minister Hilary Benn's claim in 2007 that flowers imported from Africa were greener as well as more socially just.
And while Dutch-grown tomatoes have a carbon footprint one-and-a-half times greater than those grown in Spain, the footprint of organically-grown tomatoes was found to be around twice as great. Dutch field-grown organic crops such as cauliflower were also found to have a higher carbon footprint.
"You shouldn't just look at transport but at the whole chain," Wageningen Agricultural Economics Institute researcher Heleen van Keernebeek told the daily De Volkskrant. "If products come from far away, the CO2 emissions across the whole chain can still be lower because far less input is needed."
The findings were produced by using a software program developed by the Dutch Product Board for Horticulture to help Dutch fresh produce growers calculate their carbon footprint. Van Kernebeek added that some growers, including the Netherlands' largest tomato grower, are already using the program to make their businesses more environmentally friendly.