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Locavores and food miles come in for more criticism

Mick Keogh - Thursday, July 19, 2012

A recent AFI newsletter had a close look at the Locavore movement, and highlighted that while there might be plenty of reasons for preferring food that is sourced locally, it is not necessarily better for the environment, and it is not a solution to global food security concerns. Now a Canadian academic has written a book on the subject, which reaches similar conclusions.

The book, "The Locavores dilemma; In praise of the 1,000 mile diet" is targeted fairly and squarely at some of the pronouncements of Michael Pollan, who is the US celebrity food author who has made a career out of criticising 'industrialised' food systems, and promotes the consumption of locally sourced food. Pollan was recently a guest at the Sydney Writers Festival. Pollan was interviewed by the ABC and constrained his criticisms to processed food, although extolling the virtues of Australian grass-fed meat. 

The new book is by Canadian academic Pierre Desrochers and its basic premise is that the so-called global industrialised food system developed because it was actually more efficient than the alternative. He and his co-author provide a long list of arguments which carefully analyse the perceived benefits of local foods and why food miles is a poor metric of environmental sustainability. Similar issues were discussed in the May issue of the Farm Institute Insights publication

The article and the book both argue that there is nothing wrong with opting for local foods, but make the point that it is incorrect to assume local foods are environmentally superior, or more sustainable.

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