Buying food grown locally is becoming increasingly popular. But what happens when you have to choose between imported organic food and locally grown conventional food?
Which is the more environmentally helpful? Organic food is grown with respect for the environment. Locally grown conventional food often involves lashings of pesticides. But if local small farmers are not supported, it opens the door for large scale agri-business-oriented food systems.
The World Watch Institute is running a poll on this very topic, asking: Which is more important for environmental sustainability: buying locally-produced food or buying organic food? Go here to vote in the poll.
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Buying Local Buying local boosts local communities. For every dollar we spend on foreign-made products, we take a dollar away from our families and communities, say the Greens.
“New Zealand manufacturers and retailers, who have provided centuries of commitment to their communities are being undermined by the introduction of 'big box' complexes and cheap imports.”
The further food travels, the greater the impact of carbon emissions, as well as the wider environmental impacts of global shipping and air freight.
Investing money in the local economy According to the Oregan based Northwest Earth Institute, a dollar spent at a locally owned store is usually spent six to 15 times before it leaves the community. From $1, $5 to $14 is created within the community.
Supermarkets The current supermarket food system involves food which has been transported, not only from other parts of New Zealand, but from all over the world. Often, imported fresh produce is sold in favour of the same produce grown within New Zealand, squeezing local growers out of business.
Transporting food long distances depends on artificially low energy prices, and on externalising the environmental costs of a wasteful food system.
Large-scale agribusiness In the US, large scale, agribusiness-oriented agriculture is subsidised with government handouts and artificially cheap energy, at the expense of small farmers.
With world oil production shifting gear, energy efficient agricultural methods, like smaller-scale organic agriculture, and local production are becoming increasingly relevant.