Bookmark and Share October 28, 2009 - Dave Mulder

Locavores can’t feed the world

It’s true. We can’t feed the world with only localized food production; so long as the population keeps increasing at an astronomical rate and people live in deserts, we will always need some kind of industrial, bio-engineered, energy-dependent option. Striking a fine balance between the two is a goal on my mind and the mind of James McWilliams.

McWilliams’ most recent book, Just Food: Where Locavores Get It Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly, is only two months old and goes to work on dogmatic local/organic foodies.

“Locavores, and their ceaseless emphasis on fresh, local, sustainable food, are to be thanked for fueling an upsurge in ecological awareness about food.”

In this sense, I think dogmatic is a perfect term to describe that kind of person. ┬áTheir heart is in the right place, but their head isn’t. An apple grown with a little bit of pesticide on the farm next door is more ethically acceptable to eat than one certified organic and flown in from Fiji.

Genetically-engineered crops have their place, especially in under-developed parts of the world that lack a stable food production system. Also, any geographic location plagued by excessive drought conditions stands to benefit from drought-resistant, genetically-modified plants.

And that pasture-raised cow, pig, or chicken? That can be environmentally destructive if the grass is not managed appropriately.

McWilliams’ book is thought-provoking if only because it challenges the conception that local/organic food production is always ethical and reproducible around the globe. But don’t take my word for it, I haven’t read it yet (it’s in a short stack waiting for its turn).

If you have a few extra minutes today, check out this ten-minute video of McWilliams speaking about Just Food.

Of course, I don’t necessarily agree with McWilliams on everything. The blogosophere is already full of food activists lambasting Just Food. This article is more a consideration of his ideas and what does make good sense.