Saturday, February 05, 2011

Advantages of Not Buying Local

Peter Singer and Jim Mason lay out good arguments for why buying local may not always be the most ethical choice.1 It's not a dependable guide for saving energy, growing sustainably, or assisting low-income communities.

"A British study carried out for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs showed that buying local tomatoes outside the usual outdoor season was responsible for three times the carbon dioxide emissions caused by growing the tomatoes in Spain and trucking them to Britain."

"Mary Ann would reduce her contribution to greenhouse gas emissions by avoiding her local [Fairfield, Connecticut] farmer's green-house-grown early tomatoes and buying tomatoes from Florida."
"The energy used in shipping a ton of rice from Bangladesh to San Francisco is less than the difference between the amount of energy it takes to grow it in California and in Bangladesh, so if you live in San Francisco, you would save energy by buying rice that has traveled thousands of miles by sea, rather than locally-grown rice."
"If you have a dollar to spend on beans and you can choose between buying locally grown beans at a farmers' market or beans grown by a poor farmer in Kenya - even if the local farmer would get to keep the entire dollar and the Kenyan farmer would get only two cents from your dollar - you will do more to relieve poverty by buying the Kenyan beans."
"Our point now is simply that "keep your dollars circulating in your own community" is not an ethical principle at all. To adhere to a principle of "buy locally," irrespective of the consequences for others, is a kind of community-based selfishness."
A rather frank issue for me:

1 Excerpts from their book, The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter, 2006


Dr. Mel said...

One thought is not to buy tomatoes out of season--we don't. We have all the sauce and tomato chutney we made from local tomatoes (including our own) *in* season.

Dr. Mel said...

And Mary Ann also would be supporting tomato slavery in southern Florida by buying tomatoes grown there. I'm just sayin'.

Claudia said...

What gets me about people who say eat local is that they don't! They just say they do to be smug or snobby. They all drink coffee and tea and tropical juice and spices and fish from oceans hundreds of miles away! You can't eat local in North dakota in February. I swear this is some California thing.