Sunday, November 9, 2008

Food: Buy global!

Food activists have been haranguing us for a long time with their Buy Local, 100-Mile Diet, and food-mile Save-the-Planet bullcrap. It's all part of global warming hysteria and it’s working.

Dinky little local produce markets have been springing up on mall parking lots everywhere. And my grocery stores have been steadily climbing further onto the "green" bandwagon - pushing fabric shopping bags, flogging ever more organic produce (mostly at significantly higher prices) and offering fewer choices and lower quality.

For example, my favourite grocer used to carry a wide variety of potatoes including local, Island, and B.C. grown as well as from Idaho and P.E.I. Then the high quality Idaho and P.E.I. spuds started getting crowded out by lower quality (soggy, starchy) B.C. and ‘Island’ grown - and to add insult to injury the local ones were often priced higher than spuds shipped all the way from Idaho and P.E.I. Go figure! Recently all the grocery stocked were BC and ‘Island grown’ varieties. Now, to get good Idaho or P.E.I. spuds I’m forced to chase across town (saving the planet?) to find a grocer that carries them.

All I want out of my food supply system is convenience, choice and quality at a reasonable price. But the locavore / 100-mile-diet idiots are doing their level best to make sure that doesn’t happen. And I have had serious doubts that buying local would save much, if any, energy.

I’ve been meaning to complain to the grocery management about this but without hard data the only answer I expected from them was a spiel on "it’s-what-the-customer-wants" and their stock saving-the-planet lecture - though I have to admit, thanks to the green bullshit machine, there’s little doubt that "it’s-what-the-customer-wants".

Now, thanks to Peter Foster's column "Just plain bananas" and an accompanying article "Buy global" by researchers Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu we now have good evidence debunking the ‘buy local’, food mile mythology. A sampling from Peter Foster’s summary:

... Food mile thinking is crude and ignores productivity differences between different growing locations.

... This simplistic approach completely ignores the rationale for the evolution of a dispersed and globalized commercial agriculture...

... Food mile lunacy has been taken farthest in the U.K. .... [But a British study showed] The biggest carbon offender was automobile trips to the supermarket! ... [The study also showed] Spanish tomatoes are responsible for one quarter of the CO2 emissions of greenhouse-grown tomatoes in the U.K. Importing fruit from the antipodes is cheaper (and less environmentally costly) than storing domestic fruit for use in the off-season.

... The [Desrochers & Shimizu] study notes the hypocrisy of many campaigners, who are simply domestic protectionists trying to guard their expensive "organic" products. It also points out that fads such as the "100-mile diet" reduce choice, increase costs and take up lots of precious time to pursue.

... the economic and environmental costs of food miles are almost irrelevant when compared with the horrendous costs of farm subsidies and food-trade barriers. ... This corrupted system is at the root of many current trade frictions.

... "The evidence presented suggests that food miles are, at best, a marketing fad... ."

... Food-mile mysticism involves lower incomes for Third World farmers and higher prices for First World consumers.

... Indeed, one can’t help concluding that only the wealthy, who live in underappreciated capitalist societies, could have the time and resources to engage in calculations of such moralistic, self-indulgent stupidity. What is most depressing is the willingness of corporations to waste billions of dollars dancing to their tune.

OK. Now I’m ready to complain to my grocery store managers - and my provincial government. Do I think it will have any effect? Not a snowball’s chance in Hades - they’re all part of the racket. But I’ll feel righteous.

[The full paper by Desrochers & Shimizu.]


smithsan said...

Food riots in developing countries will spread unless world leaders take major steps to reduce prices for the poor, the head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation FAO said on Friday.
social marketing

JR said...

Yes. And the more you look into green-inspired idiocy like 100-mile-diets and food-miles the more you come to realize that environmentalists really don't give a damn about such things as Third World starvation. No sacrifice to Gaia is too great.