I blog about environmental and social justice issues because I am very concerned about the health of the interdependent web of life of which we are a part.

Melting Arctic ice.......beautiful and frightening!

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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Ms Wente versus Local Food

Margaret Wente emphatically states in today's Globe and Mail that eating local is plain wrong and silly.
And that’s what’s wrong with locavorism. It’s the most wasteful, inefficient way to feed the human race you can possibly imagine. It’s also bad for the environment
She also says:
Modern food systems have done wonders for our standard of living and have liberated humankind from the chains of rural serfdom. They have increased, not decreased, food security.
So are the folks promoting local food really such  complete idiots?  According to Margaret Wente, they are.  Perhaps she has erred - been too hasty - read one book and not done other research - or just plain wrong.
I plump for just plain wrong - Margaret Wente that, is. The modern food systems which she extols,  according to the UN, did not lead to food security for everyone.  Nor are they safer for the environment.

"The increase in prices underlying the 2007-2008 food crisis and the new food price spikes in 2011 have exposed the presence of serious threats to the sustainability of the global food system and its capacity to provide adequate and affordable access to food. Meeting the challenge of expanding food production to feed the world population over the coming decades requires a major transformation in agriculture. The so-called green revolution of the 1960s and 1970s helped boost agricultural productivity worldwide, but did not conduce to a sustainable management of natural resources, nor to food security for many of the world’s poor.  "http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/policy/wess/wess_current/2011wess_chapter3.pdf

Worse, our huge farms are not as productive as small holdings.  (Yes, I was astonished when I read this too!)
Vandana Shiva, an agriculture and food activist, points to reams of studies .....showing that the most poductive form of agriculture is not our modern, tractor - seviced, big field monocultures, but multilple crop manual labor intensive smallholdings. ( page 170, Good News for A Change: How Everyday People Are Healing the Planet, David Suzuki and Holly Dressel.)

Industrial agriculture  - the kind of food growing that Ms. Wente lauds - is heavily subsidized.     And torments animals.  (Just watch Food Inc. if you doubt me on the animal cruelty. )
 This sytem also degrades our soils - and contributes to climate change.
Professor Michael Bomford, a research scientist at Kentucky State University and a fellow of the Post Carbon Institute, is concerned about how our dependence on oil to feed ourselves is leading to soil depletion and degradation, as well as increasing [food]prices....
Carbon stored in soil allows the soil to hold nutrients and water, and losing soil contributes to climate change. Bomford is worried about other contributing factors to climate change borne from the use of chemical fertilizers.
And that serfdom Ms. Wente frets about?  Seemingly, people are anxious to take it up.  From her own column:

Today the countryside around our place is thronged with a brand-new generation of farmers – eager young idealists who have fled back to the land. Every weekend they show up at the little farmers’ market with their colourful bouquets of organic carrots and their tender non-commodified artisanal greens. 

Organic local food is a good thing! It tastes better than food shippled thousands of miles, is better for the environment, and puts money into the local economy.  Ms. Wente is wrong.

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