Is local food bad for the economy?

The Locavore’s Dilemma, a controversial new book by two Canadian academics, is attracting its fair share of criticism

The 100-mile mess

Photography by Jenna Marie Wakani

The North American farm is experiencing a cultural renaissance, or so say the stories of urban twentysomethings swapping the comforts of the city for overalls and buckets of manure, of municipal bylaw officials debating the merits of backyard chicken coops, to say nothing of the explosion of farmers’ markets, community gardens, high-end restaurants specializing in local food, and the home-delivery services of fresh produce from nearby farms.

The push for sustainable agriculture and local food trumpeted by everyone from Michelle Obama to the Canadian authors of The100-Mile Diet seems innocuous enough as a way for us to end our dependence on a corn-based diet of junk food and soft drinks, as well as curb rising rates of childhood obesity by teaching us to appreciate how our food gets from the farm to the table.

Know your farmer, proponents of local food say, and you’ll make better choices about what you put in your mouth, support the local economy and save the environment in the process. As Michael Pollan, the New York Times writer and champion of the local food movement, is fond of saying, “Pay more, eat less.”

Enter two previously little-known Canadian academics with a controversial new book that argues that, far from making our communities healthier and more self-sufficient, the local food movement will destroy our economies, ruin our environment and probably lead to more wars, famine and incidences of food poisoning.

The Locavore’s Dilemma—the title is a play on Pollan’s bestselling The Omnivore’s Dilemma—by University of Toronto geography professor Pierre Desrochers and his wife, Hiroko Shimizu, who has a master’s in international public policy, argues that much of the gains the world has made in food security and standards of living have come from the evolution of our food system from small-scale subsistence agriculture to international trade among large and specialized producers, the corporate-driven agribusiness that so many food activists despise.

To Desrochers and Shimizu, corporations that control huge swaths of the North American food supply—the McDonald’s and Wal-Marts of the world—have made food safer and cheaper by creating economies of scale that can help support technological advancements such as more sophisticated automated farm equipment, safer pesticides and fertilizers, genetically modified seeds that produce higher yields, and more advanced food-safety practices that have cut the rate of outbreaks of food-borne illness by a hundredfold in the past century.

Food activists, they contend, would rather turn back the clock on those modern developments, close the doors to trade and return to a world where families toiled the land, pesticide- and fertilizer-free, and then squeaked by on what they could earn from selling their goods at the local farmers’ market. It’s a recipe, the authors say, for economic and social disaster.

Today’s locavores—the term for those who support local food—“don’t ask the most obvious question, which is, if things were so great in our great-grandmothers’ time, why did things change so much since then?” Desrochers says in an interview. “If it was only an educational movement, I wouldn’t have any problem with it. But increasingly, it’s becoming a way to stick it to the man. What are activists going to do when Wal-Mart offers fair trade coffee and organic food? They will have to find another way to get back at corporations.”

Local food movements have a long history, as successive generations rediscover the romantic idealism of living off the land as their ancestors did, from Henry David Thoreau heading to the woods in Walden, to Depression-era policies to turn vacant city lots into urban potato patches, to wartime “Victory Gardens.” These movements were all popular for a few years and usually floundered when government funding ran out or farmers found living off the land too difficult. Today’s movement, which Desrochers traces back to the economic boom times of the 1990s, is all well and good, he says, until the tumultuous global economy eventually forces us to spend less on groceries. “The main message we want to send to idealistic young farmers is don’t count on charity to build your business. The movement might be popular right now, but I’m not sure it will last down the road.”

Desrochers’s and Shimizu’s argument is largely a treatise on the benefits of the free market and globalization, the belief that the only way to feed an ever-growing global population is to produce more food on less land with fewer resources, which means the family farm will continue to die a gradual death in favour of corporate agribusiness.

To understand just how far we’ve come, they argue, consider that in a “short” several thousand years we’ve gone from needing 1,000 hectares (nearly 2,500 acres) of land to feed a single person to just one-tenth of an acre in today’s globalized food chain. In the past 60 years, the world’s population has exploded from 2.5 billion to seven billion, and the percentage of the population going hungry on a daily basis has dropped from 40 per cent to less than 15 per cent. Desrochers and Shimizu argue that if we were still using 1950s technology to produce our food, we would need to plow an extra land mass the size of South America just to feed the world’s population.

Take local food to its most extreme conclusion, Desrochers says—grow only food that’s truly native to North America—and we’d all be eating a lot of blueberries, seeds, squash, and not much else. The most dramatic examples of economic and social destruction from policies to promote local food over international trade, he says, include the nationalist policies of Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany, and Japan of the 1930s, when rice prices rose 60 per cent above the international rate as the country pursued agricultural self-sufficiency.

Not surprisingly, an argument that compares locavores to Hitler has attracted its fair share of critics, who mostly accuse Desrochers and Shimizu of either being in the pockets of corporate agribusiness—Desrochers says the couple’s only remuneration came from their publisher—or of harbouring a personal vendetta. Shimizu was born and raised near Tokyo and the couple wrote The Locavore’s Dilemma after they took issue with a Toronto speech by a visiting professor from the University of British Columbia, in which he said Japan was one of the world’s most “parasitic” countries because it imported so much of its food. Desrochers grew up in a farming community in Quebec’s St. Lawrence Valley and worked for a time at the Quebec Farmers’ Union ferrying new immigrants from Montreal out to the countryside to pick berries. Among his biggest supporters, he says, have been people who grew up on a farm and later left it. Two of his biggest detractors have been his brother, François Desrochers, a former Quebec MLA for the Action démocratique du Québec, who represented the rural riding of Mirabel, and his father, whom he describes as a “typical Quebec nationalist who wants Quebec to be self-sufficient.”

Local food supporters say the authors have painted an unfair picture of the locavore movement by focusing on its most extreme elements. “The book is very, very manipulative,” says Debbie Field, executive director of FoodShare, a Toronto community food program that sells about 4,000 local food boxes and feeds about 141,000 children in a school nutrition program. “It does not bring us light, it is throwing oil on the fire. It’s just making things more complicated.” Field says critics of the local movement too often assume that local food always has to cost more and that all locavores are against using modern technology on the farm. “I know a lot of young farmers in Ontario and they’re some of the most technically sophisticated people in the world,” she says. “They’re not about going back to some mythical slavery past. It’s about creating new, environmentally sustainable food.”

Most local food supporters take a more balanced approach between promoting local and imported fair trade food, she says. For instance, FoodShare, which is supported by private donations and government funding, bought $1.5 million worth of produce last year, with $500,000 of it from local producers. Only about half of the food in FoodShare boxes and 30 per cent of the food sent to schools is local. This year, FoodShare included imported strawberries and apples because unseasonably warm and wet weather wreaked havoc with local crops. “I don’t want a child eating potato chips from southern California instead of strawberries and apples from southern California if our strawberry and apple crops are destroyed,” Field says. “We’re not saying, ‘Don’t eat the mango,’ but they’re saying, ‘I’m not going to eat that local strawberry, even if it’s the same price.’ ”

Among the most popular and controversial aspects of today’s local food movement is the concept of “food miles,” the distance food travels from the farm to the table, which serves as a rallying cry for environmentalists concerned over greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Desrochers calls the food-miles argument a “misleading distraction” in the debate over food policy. Research from the U.K. comparing local tomatoes with those imported from Spain showed the U.K. tomatoes, which had to be grown in heated greenhouses, emitted nearly 2,400 kg of carbon dioxide per ton, compared to 640 kg for the Spanish tomatoes, which could grow in unheated greenhouses.

Other studies have found that food miles represent just four per cent of total emissions related to food, with most of the emissions coming from producing food and from consumers driving to the grocery store to buy it. Air transportation accounts for just one per cent of food miles, with much food transported in the cargo holds of passenger jets, while marine container ships are one of the most fuel efficient ways to transport large shipments of food, Desrochers says.

Studies on food miles need to be taken with a grain of salt since many are industry-funded, says Don Mills, president of Local Food Plus, which certifies local organic and sustainable farms in Ontario. Those studies also assume that produce shipped to Canada in the winter hasn’t been kept in cold storage elsewhere, he says. Critics willing to dismiss the food-miles argument also ignore the tax dollars spent building the infrastructure to ship food long distances. “An awful lot of public infrastructure and public policy goes into food no matter how you shake it out, and that’s why you see huge money being spent lobbying by large agricultural producers to get some policy outcome,” he says.

A better measure than food miles or even food prices, he says, is the amount of energy, in fuel, put into growing food compared to the energy, in calories, that people get from eating it. By that standard, Mills says, research shows large, highly automated farms use more fossil fuel energy than small farms that use manual labour. “Small subsistence fallow farming is incredibly productive from a [fuel] calorie perspective,” he says. “There’s lots of ways to measure the world, and we may have to balance the predominance of economic measurement with a notion of energy balance.”

Like it or not, Mills says, the debate around food policy is here to stay, mostly because food represents a core part of society’s value system that eclipses the traditional economic arguments of industries such as manufacturing. “I would argue that food is different. It has a more important place in humanity and in culture than widgets,” he says. “If we can figure out issues around food transportation, around energy, around how we treat our produce with pesticides, around how we treat our [farm] labour, we’ll be well on our way to sorting through a number of other spheres as well. If we get food right, we’ll get a lot of other things right.”

Such arguments are one of the biggest dangers of the local food movement, counters University of Manitoba agricultural professor Ryan Cardwell. It’s one thing for food activists to want to spend more on groceries at their local farmers’ markets. It’s another when they push governments to use tax dollars to support local agricultural production, either through direct subsidies or through programs that require public institutions such as schools, prisons and military bases to buy and serve only local food. “My concern is when advocates of local food try and influence policy and government money and regulations to address a policy objective,” he says. “If you want to address an issue like urban poverty or greenhouse gas emissions, then you should pick the policy that best addresses them, and local food really doesn’t answer any of them.”

Another argument of the local food movement that Desrochers disputes is that local farming is inherently healthier and safer than the mass-produced counterpart, since farmers tend to use fewer pesticides and they have a duty to their local community. In contrast, he says, large corporations have brands to protect and budgets to devote to scrupulous food safety practices, compared to small farms, which usually aren’t worth suing if they cause outbreaks of food-borne illnesses like E.coli or salmonella. He cites Jensen Farms, the family farm in Colorado whose pesticide-free cantaloupes were linked to an outbreak of listeria last year that killed at least 30 people.

Large farms and food processing plants are also susceptible to outbreaks of food-borne illness—Maple Leaf Farms paid $25 million to settle claims from a 2008 listeria outbreak—but Desrochers argues they’re easier to trace and correct than illnesses caused by small farms since they generate more media coverage and government oversight.

“You see young organic farms grow their stuff in manure and bring it to the barn where all the doors are open and wash everything with a hose, all the various vegetables together,” he says. “As [Loblaw executive chairman] Galen Weston said, farmers’ markets are beautiful places, but eventually they will kill people.”

Getting to know your farmer is a noble aim, but most visitors to farmers’ markets have very little understanding that the food they buy from local growers is often not produced under the same conditions as those they can find at the grocery store, says Mary Shelman, director of Harvard University’s agribusiness program. “Most people assume you can take it home and eat it out of the bag before they wash it,” she says. “That’s actually frightening to me because people don’t respect that it actually came out of a field full of rabbits and deer and birds who aren’t too discriminating about where they take a bathroom break.” Larger commercial farms tend to have fewer problems of animal contamination because they’re required to fence off animal pathways.

One of the advantages of the decline of the family farm has been to move agriculture away from the large population centres, where diseases can easily spread back and forth between humans and animals, Shelman says. “If everyone had chickens in their backyard and there was an outbreak of bird flu, that would take care of every chicken.”

Neither, says Desrochers, is local food inherently more secure than that from commercial farms or foreign exports, as many food activists argue. Historically, societies that relied solely on their own agriculture were more susceptible to famine than those who opened their doors to international trade, mainly because if one country had a poor harvest it could always import food from a country that had a good season. Advancements in transportation—first the railway and later the airplane—have only helped eradicate food shortages and famines in developed countries by ensuring that fresh food can always be readily shipped anywhere.

Rather than closing borders or encouraging more local agriculture, Desrochers and others argue, food security requires encouraging economic development, so consumers can spend less of their incomes on food. Already the amount of disposable income spent on food has dropped from 23 per cent in 1930s America to 9.4 per cent today. By promoting less productive, small-scale agriculture, Desrochers says, locavores are encouraging a type of farming that will require huge tracts of wilderness to be destroyed to create farms in order to accommodate an anticipated doubling in the global food supply needed to feed the world’s population by 2050. As it stands, he says, each year more agricultural land is reverting to wilderness than is consumed by urban sprawl.

True North American food security, says Shelman, would mean converting large parcels of urban land to agriculture use. “If you look at all the land that is devoted to huge houses and driveways and pools in the backyard and beautiful landscaping, you can make the argument that ultimately for food security we have to be willing to give up other parts of the way we live,” she says.

Ultimately, though, Shelman says the local food movement is driven less by nationalism and more by consumers’ need to connect with their food and have confidence in how it’s produced, whether locally or abroad. That will keep the movement a potent force for years to come. “Local could mean it has to be in my backyard, or it could be local in the same sense that I have confidence in my food even if I’m eating artisan cheese that’s been produced in Ireland and Italy,” she says. “As long as I know the story, that is local. That’s really what people are looking for, somebody to put a face on agriculture and farming. We’re more confident in people than we are in faceless institutions.”


Is local food bad for the economy?

  1. Sigh….we just nicely get away from centuries of subsistence agriculture and some bright-eyed kids with a romantic view of farming and no knowledge at all, show up.

    Let’s hope locavorism is a short-lived fad.

    • It has some merits, but of course the zealots take it to extremes. It won’t feed the world, but we can only benefit if more people learn basic survival skills, like feeding themselves. The grocery store might not always be able to do it.

      • And when exactly are we likely to need ‘survival skills’ again?

        • If we’re lucky we won’t. On the other hand, there is no guarantee the current financial system will survive another shock. In which case a global depression is the very least we can expect. The ability to grow a garden or raise a few chickens will suddenly become a valuable skill. I understand you are a career civil servant, and therefore being hopelessly dependent on the system for your food and everything else is entirely natural for you. With some luck, you will never be forced to question your assumptions. As the Greeks will tell you, luck doesn’t always hold. Many thousands of Athenians are moving out to the countryside to scratch their living out of the dirt again. Much to the chagrin of the rural folk, who are forced to teach these parasites how to do menial tasks they always believed they were beneath them.

          • We won’t be going back to pioneering either way…growing gardens and raising chickens takes time.

            I’ve never been in the civil service….sorry. Grew up in farming.

            Greece is a country of small farms and small shops….they don’t have an economy to speak of. Tourism mostly, nd now they’ve ruined that.

            As to the talk about ‘parasites’ and moving people to the country to do ‘menial tasks’…..that sounds very like Mao and Pol Pot. Watch where you’re going.

          • There is no forced collectivization in Greece, so the Pol Pot comparison is a strawman argument. They’re moving back because they don’t have anything else to do. Would be nice if they had some basic skills to go along with it, instead of being helplessly dependent on the locals who would rather they go back to where they came from.

            I’m not saying we’re going back to pioneer days either. I’m simply saying that someone with a basic ability to feed themselves, in times of great economic hardship, is miles ahead of someone who can’t.

          • Well now you’re just talking about a mixed bag of things, with no connections at all.

            Or….mostly just talking smack.

          • My argument was consistent from start to finish. Alas, your ability to follow it was not. That’s OK. I knew that going in. It is exchanges such as these that have made you something of a joke here at Macleans.

      • How will it not ‘feed the world’. We’re not talking about using only human or animal labour. We’re simply talking about locality.

  2. Ahh yes . . the Locavore Diet.

    Because no one does stupidity like the Eco Greenie Fruits & Nutters out there.

    Gotta feel sorry for them. Such a limited future.

  3. “The main message we want to send to idealistic young farmers is don’t
    count on charity to build your business. The movement might be popular
    right now, but I’m not sure it will last down the road.” Really? Conventional, industrial agriculture gets no “charity”? Give me a break! What about all the subsidized crop insurance, flex payments, direct payments, etc. that the US Congress is pondering? This book and article are so full of propaganda I thought it must be a parody of what journalism is supposed to be. Especially irritating is the image of little animals pooping in the fields and young, idealistic, naive, ignorant farmers hosing off their produce in the barn, manure on the floor, doors open. These farmers know that their businesses are dependent on providing their customers safe food. After all, they look their customers in the face every week (their large scale, industrialized neighbors never see their customers). It really is not hard at all to trace the food back to where it was grown when the farmer hands it to you. I don’t know any small local farmers who even if they weren’t careful could prompt a recall of a million pounds of anything. Small local producers, CSA’s, farmers markets must meet the same health and safety regulations as everyone else…even when they don’t make any sense on their smaller scale.
    It seems the vested interests who probably paid for this “study” are feeling a bit defensive. I guess everyone is entitled to an opinion, but put the column on the editorial page.

    • You’re right and you’re wrong. Many small-scale farmers are conscientious. Many others are just ignoramuses who care nothing about local habitat or conservation. Not only that, but they often aren’t subject to the same regulations as larger operations are. An example? I once saw a farmer near Stoney Mountain MB (North of the Peg) spreading pig manure on his field in the winter, on top of the snow. Guess where that ends up during the spring run-off? Not fertilizing the soil, that’s for sure. I phoned to report him, and was told that any farmer with less than fifty hogs is not restricted in how he disposes of his manure, so long as it isn’t dumped directly into a natural waterway! I was astounded by this response, but upon further verification, I found that this was indeed true.

  4. If you want to see where the green locavore movement leads, go to Africa. Most people in Africa eat locally grown produce. Most produce there comes from small, labour-intensive, low productivity farms.

    Why would we want to go back to that?

    • You are a moron. Look how well European countries were doing way back when there were no megacorporations.

  5. It appears that “Locavores” are a big problem for industrialized agriculture. Suck it up, buttercup. People are sick and tired of being manipulated by industry and astro-turfing bloggers.

    • You’d allow yourself to be manipulated by an astro-turfing blogger?

  6. Thank-you for the well written and balanced article. Good job of presentling very different viewpoints. Great to see a journalist creating potential for balance out of divisiveness.

  7. I have no problem with local food, I hit the markets myself. It’s when these eco-nutters try and influence policy and want to push their agenda with tax dollars that gets my goat. Their arrogance knows no bounds, if they are doing it, it must be right, therefore they demand everyone else do it too. I live in Winnipeg and I certainly do not want to be eating turnips and potatoes for six months a year.

    • Just living in Winnipeg is bad enough. No need to punish yourself with a bland diet. :) (Full disclosure: I’m a native ‘Toban.)

      • So true, I grew up in Edmonton during the 1960s and the backyard was nothing but a garden and processing the dam stuff had to occur on the hottest days of August. Frankly, canned beans, peas and carrots was boring by about Xmas – no wonder we were thrilled to get some mandarin oranges by December.

        I love the selection of foods that we have today – thanks to the big agricultural industrial complex – need more of them.

        • You’d do well to remember and appreciate those skills you learned as a kid. I’ve only recently come around to appreciating them myself, and hope I haven’t forgotten everything. Food always tastes better at my folks’ place. Because it comes straight from the garden.

  8. Is there an orange grove within 100 miles of Fort Mac? What about a crabs and scallops, they live near there?

    • The lakes of northern alberta were once teeming with scallops and crabs, but alas, they were drained to make way for the corporate banana plantations. It’s a shame.

  9. This book is misleading. I will admit they make some good points, however the “local movement” is not as huge as they are portraying it to be. The majority of Canadians buy all their groceries from grocery stores, and those who go to farmers markets also go to grocery stores. It is a small minority who will eat local only. So I don’t think this is a problem that will affect our global trade, or the economy on a larger scale.

    • Thats the point though, its still small, but its growing. The people that criticize the book in this article are setting up large organizations that will grow the idea and push government for their special interest. They talk about sustainability but this type of consumption isnt.

      A book like this is the objection people raise whenever somebody tries to convince another that this is the way to eat. obviously not everyone can do it; thats what matters!

      • What? It’s not clear where you are taking us here, CL. I think you are saying that there is more than one way to grow and market food… if so, then yes, this is important to realize. Books like ‘Dilemma’ come from a Thatcherian mindset: TINA (‘there is no alternative!’)… aside from sowing confusion in people’s minds, it takes away any sense of control we might assume over our lives. That’s why I despise the sentiment and ideology of this book.

  10. There’s nothing wrong with buying local when it is natural to do so. PEI grows potatoes, hard to argue that us buying PEI potatoes is a negative. Same with beef, pork, eggs etc.

    Gardens are a hobby, farms are a business. Factory farms are something else. (Either a triumph of efficiantcy or land destroyers.)

  11. Taken to its extreme, locavorism is insane to the point of destructive. However, there is much to be said for patronizing the local small-scale operators and bypassing Big Ag. I’m not some leftist crank, and I know that in a world of 7 billion, intense, large scale agriculture is the ONLY way we’re ever going to feed everyone. But, it should not be the only option. Those who wish to buy or sell raw milk or free range poultry or ungraded eggs should be able to do so freely, without harrassment from the marketing board brownshirts.

  12. local is good
    no power to gmo @ monsanto.

  13. “This research was made possible using a generous grant from the Monsanto Corporation and Cargill.”
    Most serious researchers don’t actively denigrate the people they’re researching, I’ve found. Maybe it’s different in economics. Disclosure: I’m certainly not a locavore, but I do try to buy local produce, seafood, and meat when it’s available and in season. I may even grow my own vegetables and herbs! I am a monster, I know, for not relying on megacorporations for all of my consuming needs.

  14. Finally some truth to this trend. Yes, by all means grow your own food, but sometimes that makes NO SENSE. I’m a woman earning close to $150/hour for the work that I do – I’m not spending any time growing my own food. I don’t find it a restful activity and I can buy the stuff much cheaper at Safeways.

    Furthermore, most of the foodies really can’t tell the difference between food at the farmer’s market and stuff from the grocery store. I had a BBQ last week where people assumed I bought the veggies at the farmer’s market (because I had been seen there – actually I was just passing through) – so I didn’t what to disappoint them and just agreed. All the veggies came from Safeway, and they raved about the freshness etc. etc. etc.

    • I know what you mean, Maureen. I live in Berkeley, and all I have to do to make my guests happy is to say brightly, “It’s organic!” and everyone sings it’s praises. Really doesn’t matter whether it’s organic or not…

  15. I find it interesting to note that there is no mention made of one of the main points of the 100 mile diet – the scientifically proven fact that food loses nutritional value over time, and that food that spends more time travelling loses more of it’s nutritional value. I also noticed some jibes at organic farming, to which there was no balancing comment to point out that organic produce has been proven by independent laboratories to have extremely higher nutritional value than non-organic produce, and that gmo foods, while having increased yield it is true, cause health problems such as increased allergic sensitivity and thickened lining in the digestive tract causing decreased absorption of much needed nutrients such as B vitamins. This came out sounding less like a balanced look at the issue and more like another attempt to support a style of big business that has repeatedly been proven to be unhealthy. Why the lack of research on BOTH sides of the issue?

  16. If local farming is so much better why has agribusiness thrived so? Because economies of scale allow agribusiness to be more efficient in production, and the time scales between eating modified plants which our bodies have difficulty processing and the diseases and allergies that show up thereafter is too large for most people to be able to draw the connection

    One could similarly ask if agribusiness is making foods so much safer why is there such an increasing demand for lactose and gluten free foods?

    • Certainly that’s what happened with wheat. The wheat we eat today ain’t what they ate 100 years ago. It’s not even legal to grow older varieties of wheat, because it had rust problems, which they worry could infect the modern distribution system. You’d get arrested for even trying to grow it. Today’s wheat isn’t GMO either. It was created with good old-fashioned plant breeding methods, before transgenic technology was even available. It’s making us fat and it’s killing us.

  17. Cities have huge amounts of public and private land covered with lawn, flowers or other plants purely for ornamental purposes. Put it to use to grow food.

  18. Substantial local economic benefit multipliers have been ignored by the authors. Additionally, they seem to have turned a blind eye to food justice issues. Local food system benefits run deep in our communities and bring highly sought after intangibles, such as building community and sense of community. Put a pricetag on that…
    Again, a just, local & sustainable food system is an investment in your community with an immeasurable ROI.

  19. This is somewhat misleading – if you really want to look at the benefits (or not) of locally grown food you must look at each crop type individually. Looking at the UK research cited that Spanish tomatoes have a lower carbon footprint than British grown ones; in contrast the research also indicated that the carbon footprint for apples and potatoes was less for British versus foreign imports. There are very sophisticated and technologically advanced means of growing to scale in both locations. I’m inclined to support the system that supports my national economy, and provides support to maintaining domestic food production capacity. On the road to population growth to 10bn, we will need to have more land in food production and be able to upscale operations quickly. Prices and competition for food will only increase as demand and fuel prices and cost of transport increases. The only back up plan is to have strong scalable industry locally that can feed the domestic population first. Supporting Canadian fruit growers for example seems to make more sense than Mexican or Californians who may already be up to capacity – particularly for industries where Canadian technological capacity is on par with foreign growers.

  20. One point that really stood out to me was their mention of community gardens being part of the ‘localvore’ problem. What?!? So using space in a field or parking lot to grow your own food is threatening food security and contributing to ‘economic and social disaster.’ This is ridiculous. Have communities and especially the children get together to grow food, which, no one can argue tastes better, is satisfying to produce and helps kids learn about food and where it comes from. This article doesn’t come across as balanced. It seems like scare tactics that wants me drive my car down to the suburban walmart spend my money to buy lettuce instead of growing it in my community garden, relieved that I’m not contributing to the destruction of our economy, stopping wars, famine, incidences of food poisoning and saving the environment.

  21. @briguyhfx:disqus

    ‘Most researchers..’ ? Oh you mean like James Hansen and the ‘deniers death trains’?

  22. So Prof Cardwell thinks local ag should not expect any help from govt subsidy or tax program. Unlike the billions that have been handed to big ag so they can learn how to produce the big ag way – depleting the soil, etc. and protecting them from crop failure. Maybe small ag should just get its share of the largess !

  23. I think “pink slime” is a great example of why people have lost trust/faith in big ag – we no longer believe they are telling us what is in the food. I recently found regular potatoes are sprayed with anti-sprouting inhibitor – no mention on the package is req’d.

  24. The answer is no. Unless you consider the economy only large corporations, which is what the author of this book seems to be doing.