Organic vs Local? Who Cares. Neither is Sustainable.

Grain Tractor on Farm Photo

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While last year we were debating whether it's better to buy organic or local (or both), an article in Mother Jones now reports that we have even bigger fish to fry when it comes to our food production. While dreams of our future food system may rely on the romantic image of local farmers, the reality is: this model can't do what we need it to do, that is, feed billions of people. Future food must also pack a greater amount of calories using fewer resources (water and energy), as well as be affordable, "ecologically benign" and also not abuse laborers and farmers in the process. Most of what we consider "sustainable" today is not - according to the article, only 2% of the food purchased in the US qualifies as sustainable (i.e. adheres to the values listed above). Growing food organically but underpaying workers, or using small-scale local farms really only gets at one part of the equation and won't work to feed the billions of people on the planet long-term.

In that case, is it better to purchase your food from a farmers market, where dozens of farmers truck in their produce each on individual trucks from all over, or purchase your food from a chain store where they ship it "en mass, via large trucks." Considering the transport only accounts for 10% of the emissions from food production, maybe we should turn our focus over to how the food is produced (resource usage). A recent report from Carnegie-Mellon University said, "going meat- and dairyless one day a week is more environmentally beneficial than eating locally every single day."

Farmer in Fields Outside of City Plants Photo

Image via: Getty Images

More on the State of Sustainable Farming onPage 2

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