The Empire Strikes Back

By Jill Richardson

Sloan Pic Broc

Good for Salon! Local Food is in great demand and a part of the conversation. Two "neo-liberal" economists recently wrote a book called "The Locavore’s Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000 Mile Diet". Magazine took this book, and the assumptions behind it, to task as "silly."

The biggest pushback against the local food movement is the higher price. The authors of the underlying book praise the efficiencies of the international food movement, with year-round availability and the "fungible" nature of food. Ms. Richardson takes them to task for using six economic principles that do not fit in the economics of food:

  1. consumers are NOT rational in their choices—emotion and spirit plays a role in our food choices.
  2. Food is NOT a commodity that is standardized (KBD: my "Food isn’t Fungible" concept).
  3. Monoculture crops (as promoted by the authors) leave entire sectors of agriculture open to disease and complete destruction.
  4. To have each area of the country (i.e. Idaho potatoes) makes for a very vulnerable food system, and requires massive agrochemical inputs.
  5. The current "efficient" food system ignores the (literal) toxic effect on the workers and the widespread human rights abuses to maintain cheap, monoculture fields.
  6. The current model pushes food into a major GDP category—including extra spending on processed foods, gyms, weight loss books, and health care. Economists only consider the GDP/financial model, not human health or welfare.

Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog La Vida Locavore and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.