Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Why eat locally? Do food miles matter?

A recent op-ed in the NY Times suggests that one reason to eat locally -- to reduce food miles and therefore energy consumption -- is flawed.

Author Stephen Budiansky points out one absurdity: "For instance, it is sinful in New York City to buy a tomato grown in a California field because of the energy spent to truck it across the country; it is virtuous to buy one grown in a lavishly heated greenhouse in, say, the Hudson Valley."

In a different article describing the debate, Cornell faculty member Jennifer Wilkins describes other reasons why people might want to eat locally.

An excerpt:

"Jennifer Wilkins, a faculty member at the Cornell University College of Human Ecology, says the strict economic and environmental calculations can be complex but that diversity in the food supply 'tends to increase stability and resilience.'

She said that recalls and accidents in the food supply can highlight problems when a small number of producers dominate.

'When something goes wrong in a highly concentrated and specialized system, as we are reminded by the recent recall of shell eggs, the consequences and costs related to public health, economic loss, food waste, and consumer confidence are on a much more spectacular scale and much more widespread,' she said."

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