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Locavorism is not good for you

A customer shops for nectarines at a farmers market on June 13, 2012 in San Francisco, Calif. Commentator Pierre Desrochers offers the contrarian view that buying food locally is good for your health and the environment.

If taken seriously, locavorism would not only mean lower standards of living and shorter life expectancies, but also increased environmental damage.

Think of it this way. Because nobody would bother transporting foodstuffs over long distances if it didn't deliver superior outcomes, locavorism can only result in higher prices and less variety. A less varied diet is inevitably less nutritious. Higher prices also leave less money in local pockets to spend on other things, in the process destroying jobs both at home and abroad. Furthermore, foreign food exporters no longer have the means to purchase other goods produced in the locavores' community.

In addition, producing food in the most suitable locations and delivering it over long distances is actually much "greener" than growing vegetables or manufacturing dairy products locally. The "local" operations require energy-guzzling heated greenhouses instead of natural heat, massive amounts of irrigation water rather than abundant rainfall, and large volumes of animal feed to make up for less productive pastureland. It's better to grow tomatoes in the Florida sun than in a heated greenhouse in upstate New York because the energy required to transport them 1200 miles is only a fraction of that required to heat greenhouses for several weeks.  

The most preposterous claim of locavores is that their prescription increases food security. Yet, no local food system can ever be completely protected from insects, plant and animal diseases, drought, floods, earthquakes and other natural catastrophes. Fortunately, trade liberalization insures that the surplus of regions with good harvests can be channeled to those with below average ones. In the long run, good and bad harvests cancel each other out. Locavorism, by contrast, puts all of one's agricultural eggs in one regional basket.

About the author

Pierre Desrochers is an associate professor of geography at the University of Toronto. His new book is called "The Locavore's Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000 Mile Diet."
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Thank you Marketplace for airing this I was listening while riding my bike and was so angry at the ridiculous assertions of this ass that I was able to beat a personal best! I agree that you should offer a counterpoint and have a few folks in mind if you want to shoot me a PM. I have to go out to my garden and pick some squash, beans, and tomatoes.

You mean you own a tomato combine to pick your tomatoes, plus the equipment to ripen them with ethylene gas like his favorite Florida tomatoes?? Otherwise you must have labored for hours without high tech farming to grow a couple of tomatoes - after all, tomatoes don't grow on plants. ;-) ;-) ;-)

What a crock! This is written for people who can't think straight. From the first sentence, Desrochers sets out to mislead: he writes, "Think of it this way. Because nobody would bother transporting foodstuffs over long distances if it didn't deliver superior outcomes,..." Whoa! "superior outcomes" for whom? What he really means is higher profits for the producer, not better value for the consumer. As a professional with experience in the produce industry, I can attest that the locavore movement is driven by the values of flavor and nutrition. Purchasing local food in a farmer's market or CSA does not "only result in higher prices and less variety": do your research, Mr. Desrochers! I got frisee, purslane, garlic scapes and 5 varieties of basil among the more than 20 items available in my share yesterday from my CSA in western Massachusetts - try finding that in your global supermarket.
The next sentence proclaims, with no evidence, that a local diet is "inevitably less nutritious".
If this were true, then people who eat from supermarkets today would be healthier than locavores or a typical farm family from 1912, before the global marketplace dominated our food supply. And this is just the first sentences - I could go on exposing the absurdities of the twisted reasoning in every sentence of this essay, but any sensible reader can do that for him-or herself. Either the writer is truly deluded or, more likely, in the pay of a global food corporation. This article reminds me of the misinformation written by the PR flacks of the tobacco industry.

Your guest commentator is not credible. He starts out with unsupported assumptions, and then uses them to support his conclusions. For example, he postulates that a locovore diet will be less nutritious because it is less varied. Of course, whether your diet is nutritious depends more on what you eat and how it is prepared than where it comes from. He thinks that only locally grown produce relies on irrigation, yet the most intensively irrigated farmland in the US is the mega-farms of the midwest that are rapidly exhausting the Ogalalla Aquifer. Here in Florida everything is irrigated, and it creates serious environmental problems because of the runoff of pollution into our lakes and streams, and into our offshore waters., In greenhouse operations, because the temperature, humidity and evaporation can be more carefully controlled, less water is required. You need to get a real expert on locally grown produce to rebut his assertions.

Pierre, thank you for your pompous and ridiculous discussion on local harvesting. We grow lots of stuff year 'round.

I grow 90% of my entire family's fruits and vegetables on my own small property, and the chickens provide lots of protein, eating the cast away cuttings from the gardens. The irrigation is precise, efficient, automated, and cheap. Local farmers are expert providers of whatever else we need. Your friends are paying 'way too much for their local food because they drive BMWs and only shop at the places where the wonderful people go.

Maybe you should travel a bit outside your inner city circle of ivory tower academics to see what actual, real people are doing creatively to grow food locally. And, yes, you might not get good cabbage in August, but you can get great squash, corn, tomatoes, beans, chard, apples, peaches, and lots of other wonderful food.

I give your uninformed and silly passage a '2' because you tried so hard. Good luck on the new book.

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