Pierre Desrochers, U of T
No doubt you have heard of ear worms, those songs that just get caught in your head and never leave. There are also news worms, the same story and the same guy popping up on radio, TV and in print everywhere. The news worm of the week in Ontario, Canada is U of T Mississauga geography professor Pierre Desrochers, who is attacking the idea of local food and the hundred mile diet. It isn't news; he first released his study Yes We Have No Bananas: A Critique of the 'Food Miles' Perspective from the George Mason University Mercatus Institute over a year ago, quickly picked up in an edited version by the National Post as Food mile myths: Buy Global.
In a full life cycle analysis, does local food save energy? Desrochers says no.
Desrochers wrote last year in the Post:
The appeal of the food mile perspective, with its promise to reconnect people with food, neighbouring producers and seasonality, while delivering environmental, economic, health and social benefits, is understandable. At root, however, this perspective is infused by activists' distrust of large corporations and their romanticization of subsistence agriculture rather than fact.
-All of us left wing anticorporate activists are trying to bring down the global food system. Local food is Subsistence farming.
Californian strawberries are grown year-round under almost ideal conditions (neither too humid nor too hot). As a result, one hectare of California land will yield over 34,000 kilograms of berries, compared to approximately 2,000 in Ontario, in the process allowing for a much more intensive and efficient use of fuel, capital, machinery and other resources.
And of course, water. And they taste like wood and are not worth transporting at all.
Our modern globalized food supply chain is a demonstrably superior alternative that has evolved through constant competition and ever more rigorous management efficiency.
And endless subsidies from the American Government for corn, Lakes of milk and mountains of butter in Europe, Tariff walls everywhere and a completely inefficient, distorted system.
10 Reasons to Eat Local Food
In the University of Toronto's U of T Magazine they write about their poor professor, under attack by all the foodies:
The article has made him a virtual pariah to opponents of corporate agriculture. "The people who protest my paper circle together like muskoxen. They're reluctant to consider the data. They're angry at corporations but feel powerless to effect change. So they transpose their efforts to something they can relate to: food purchases."
Here I do actually agree with Professor Desrochers. People are angry at corporations that have been selling us crappy food with few decent alternatives. Farmers are tired of getting almost nothing for their products. Now, with farmers markets and certification systems like local food plus, we are doing what we can to get better quality food, support our neighbours and control what we eat.
Of course, these problems were actually mitigated by the fact that the couple did not forego access to a wide range of services, such as sophisticated health care, which were available to them only because food imports made it possible for other individuals to specialize in nonagricultural activities. Still, this experiment does help illustrate the large and very tangible benefits of trade and the sophisticated division of labor it allows.
Which is certainly a novel interpretation of the book.
A search on Pierre Desrochers shows that he believes that DDT was "banned by those who felt they had the right to take a fundamental economic decision away from parents" and that "Invented crises justifying massive public-sector spending are deceptions which disadvantage ordinary people everywhere." Or his statement in another article that "green innovation has been crowded out, not by a couple of decades of deregulation, but by over a century of government interference with market mechanisms." No wonder activists circle him like muskoxen.
Why he is such a meme on our radios and televisions right now with this year old stuff is beyond me. He is currently writing "a history of previous "buy local food" movements going back a few centuries, along with reasons why they all failed in the long run, and a critique of the main arguments of the new generation of food activists.". I look forward to some new writing.
Didn't read the book? Catch the show on Planet Green