Your garden will kill you

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Eating locally produced food will lead to starvation and bacterial poisoning from salmonella, listeria and a host of other bugs ending with the letter ‘a’.

That’s not an entirely accurate portrayal of the position taken by Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu in a Star editorial advertising their new book: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/1222975--local-food-movement-leads-to-less-security. But it’s not far off, either. They tout the benefits of the global food chain: more food security because populations aren’t hit by local deviations in crop production, energy efficient shipping of produce rather than inefficient heating of greenhouses in northern climes, the improved safety checks big corporations can afford, not to mention the cheaper price.

‘If locally produced food is so good (they argue), why did it fall out of favour?’

In their world, apparently, the systems that exist are necessarily the best systems we could desire: if something falls out of favour, it must be because it was bad.

Their logic is flawed at best. It’s not that they’re wrong – it’s that they ignore the obvious. Few of us will ever eat entirely locally, even if we wanted to. What local food movement advocates are saying is, let’s eat more locally-produced goods and fewer imported goods. At it’s most simple, eating local can mean planting a garden: fresh veggies in the summer, and canned or cellared produce through the cold seasons. It’s hard to see how shipping a carrot from Chile is preferable to pulling it out of your own property.

Full marks for challenging popular wisdom, but every once in a while a burgeoning trend actually gets it right. Blindly eating anything labeled local isn’t always better. But eating local intelligently – growing your own, buying at local farmers markets or supporting specific farmers whose practices you know – probably is.

For further comments critical of Desrochers and Shimizu, check out: http://www.salon.com/2012/07/08/local_food_isnt_bad_salpart/

 

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