Economist Listens to Readers on Ethical Food


We were quite critical of the Economist when they wrote about the Politics of Food two weeks ago. To their credit, they have published an entire page of letters, all except one critical of their stance. Comments included "We cannot make large-scale improvements without involving popular majorities and one of the best ways to do this is to invite people to think about their decisions and vote with their wallets. Shopping for ethical-food labels is just one of many types of individual actions that make a difference and the impressive growth of such products is evidence that this is working."

and "You also made much of the thoroughly discredited claim that organic farming requires more land to be brought into cultivation. Recent research by Danish and American scientists suggests that if all agriculture was organic, the slight decrease in yields in the northern hemisphere would be more than matched by overall increases elsewhere, leading to a slight increase in total food production." Other comments included "You stated that Fairtrade is a subsidy that encourages overproduction. In fact, Fairtrade is a voluntary model of trade that brings consumers and companies together to offer organisations, that represent small farmers and hired labour, a price for their produce that covers the cost of sustainable production and provides a sustainable livelihood."

and "It is not clear to me why anyone needs to eat a tomato in winter, whether it is from Spain or from a local greenhouse. Eating with the seasons used to have meaning, but seems to have been lost in our current hurried, global approach to life. We view the ability to eat any food at any time of year, irrespective of its natural season, almost as a birthright. But as many of us have experienced, tomatoes in winter never quite taste the same as those in summer."

The Economist gets enough letters that they can pick and chose what message they want to send with them. Clearly they listen to them and are willing to accept (and publish) criticism. ::Economist

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