I don’t usually get past the shorts page of The Economist. But a lede on the cover of the Dec 9-15 edition, reading “Why ethical food harms the planet,” had me flipping to page 73 for a food politics piece entitled “Voting with your trolley.”
The article questions three basic tenets of current (trendy?) agricultural sustainability: that fair trade is better for the environment, the world’s food economy, and the people that grow food; that eating organic food is better for the earth; and that eating locally guarantees us fresher, tastier food and helps us rely less on the fossil fuels it typically takes to transport food around the world.
As is typical of The Economist, the piece is well-argued and provides evidence and opinions from both sides, and its redefinition of the term “food mile” gives me something to seriously ponder.
What the article doesn’t mention is the additional way we can vote with our shopping carts: we can buy seasonally. True, it may actually be more environmentally sound to grow tomatoes in Spain and ship them to (in this case) Britain than it would be to grow them in hothouses in the UK. But perhaps The Economist should have touched on the idea that maybe we shouldn’t do either if we live in northern climes, instead choosing produce that’s actually available closer to home.
And while I’m at it, could someone tell The Economist to add in bylines?
Here’s the piece: