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The Locavore's Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-mile Diet [Kindle Edition]

Pierre Desrochers , Hiroko Shimizu

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from the Foreword by Blake Hurst, president, Missouri Farm Bureau "In large parts of the world, local trumps science, and people suffer as a result... Desrochers and Shimizu take the idea of local food to the back of the barn and beat the holy livin' tar out of it. In a more rational world, their defense of what is so clearly true would not be needed. However, our world is not rational, and most of what passes for thinking about food is as full of air as an elegant French pastry." Ronald Bailey, "Desrochers and Shimizu demonstrate that the debate over food miles is a distraction from the real issues that confront global food production." "Desrochers ... is the scholar's scholar. In an age where few read all important material on all sides of their subject, this professor stands out." Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy, "Desrochers ... delivers a serious warning to the fetishization of local agriculture as the magic bullet that will solve our food problems." Bookloons"There is plenty of food for thought in this unconventional, provocative look at how we should go about feeding the masses. The authors...make some very interesting points and raise concerns that must be addressed." NATURE Magazine "The book's strength lies in the cheerful ruthlessness with which the authors challenge sloppy thinking, special pleading and the lazy logic that assumes that 'local' must be 'best'" "The Locavore's Dilemma is an ideal weapon in countering the enormous quantities of metaphorical organic manure that pass for evidence in the modern debate about food." The Times Literary Supplement "[The authors] are right to question the limits of 'local'... We certainly need a more sophisticated metric than 'food miles'." Library Journal "This often acerbic, thoroughly researched, yet controversial title provides much food for thought on the often oversimplified but ever complex issue of food miles."


A new generation of food activists has come to believe that “sustainable farming” and “eating local” are the way to solve a host of perceived problems with our modern food supply system. By combining healthy eating and a high standard of environmental stewardship, these locavores think, we can also deliver important economic benefits and increase food security within local economies.

But after a thorough review of the evidence, economic geographer Pierre Desrochers and policy analyst Hiroko Shimizu have concluded these claims are mistaken. In The Locavore’s Dilemma, they explain the history, science, and economics of food supply to reveal what locavores miss or misunderstand:  the real environmental impacts of agricultural production; the drudgery of subsistence farming; and the essential role large-scale, industrial producers play in making food more available, varied, affordable, and nutritionally rich than ever before in history. At best, they show, locavorism is a well-meaning marketing fad among the world’s most privileged consumers.  At worst, it constitutes a dangerous distraction from solving serious global food issues.   

Deliberately provocative, but based on scrupulous research and incontrovertible scientific evidence, The Locavore’s Dilemma proves that:

•    Our modern food-supply chain is a superior alternative that has evolved through constant competition and ever-more-rigorous efficiency.

•    A world food chain characterized by free trade and the absence of agricultural subsidies would deliver lower prices and more variety in a manner that is both economically and environmentally more sustainable.

•    There is no need to feel guilty for not joining the locavores on their crusade. Eating globally, not only locally, is the way to save the planet.


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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 3.8 von 5 Sternen  42 Rezensionen
28 von 35 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
3.0 von 5 Sternen Why does it have to be one or the other? 15. Juli 2012
Von Fred's not here - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I picked up this book hoping for an unbiased, critical analysis of modern agriculture and food production methods. What I got, for the most part, was a diatribe against the `elitist' local food movement and those whom the authors' refer to as "agri-intellectuals."

Pure and simple, this is a rebuttal of Michael Pollan's "Omnivore's Dilemma. It pits ominvore versus locavore; Pierre Disroachers and Hiroko Shimizu versus Michael Pollen; farmer's market versus supermarket; local farmer versus agri-businesses.

The authors' would have you believing that the supermarket and agribusiness are under siege by the local food movement. In fact, all of modern civilization is in peril. "The road to agricultural, economic, environmental, and food safety and security hell, we conclude, was paved with allegedly fresher and more nutritious local meals." [Preface, xxiv]

The bulk of "Locavore's" argument is based on historical record and economic factors. From the historical perspective they ask: If local subsistence farming is so great, why is it no longer widely practiced? Answer: improved technologies have made it obsolete. from the economic perspective: a cheaper tomato at the supermarket is every bit as good as the expensive tomato at the local farmer's market. Tomatoes all being the same, the cheaper one makes more sense.

As a philosophy for feeding the world, "Locavore" makes some valid points. Subsistence farming as practiced in developing nations is nothing like the gentleman farmer's notions of living off the land; it's backbreaking work with little reward. There are worthwhile discussions regarding topics such as "food miles -- the distance food travels from the location where it is grown to the location where it is consumed. However, many of their arguments come with prefixes such as: "Without getting into too many details of a complex and still controversial story ..." Or this regarding California strawberries: "Not only are they cheaper and better looking, but also typically tastier -- according to our unscientific assessment in purchasing both kinds over the last several years."

The most telling, and, perhaps prescient idea in the book comes in the last paragraph. Quoting the words of "William Bourke Cockran, made famous by Winston Churchill in his 1946 `iron curtain' speech: `There is enough for all. The earth is a generous mother, she will provide in plentiful abundance for all her children if they will but cultivate her soil in justice and peace.'" If only both locavores and omnivores could cultivate the soil in justice and peace together.

I shop at the supermarket and the farmer's market. I like a deal as well as anyone, although I pick up the occasional 'elitist' tomato at the farmer's market and get the social experience for my extra dollar. Why does it have to be one or the other?
20 von 24 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Shining Light on the Locavore's Dilemma 31. Juli 2012
Von Thomas Grennes - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu have produced an excellent book on a topic of great current interest. They ask what are the advantages and disadvantages of obtaining food from local sources versus more distant sources. This issue has been with us since agriculture was introduced in the Neolithic Period, and current issues related to the use of carbon have given it a new twist. The authors successfully use clear logic and extensive empirical data to contribute to an ongoing discussion that has at times deteriorated into emotional outbursts. The case in favor of commercial agriculture and long-distance trade is based on substantial differences in growing conditions within and across countries. By obtaining food from locations where production per unit of land is greater, consumers are more prosperous and land is saved. For example, cutting down forests to clear land for agriculture was a serious problem in the past, and it remains a problem in low income countries today. But the benefits of high productivity agriculture today have contributed to reforestation in the United States and most high income countries. In many poor countries (Haiti is an extreme example), much of food production is for local consumption, productivity of land is low, and deforestation and soil erosion are serious problems. This is one of many issues the authors address applying basic principles of geography and economics.

The book is clearly written for an audience of non-specialists. However, it provides extensive references for the benefit of skeptics or readers who want to pursue more technical aspects of the subject.
6 von 6 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Must reading for those of us who like to "eat local." 7. Juni 2013
Von HarveyL - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
This is a very welcome antidote to the romantic notions of how "eating local" will help farmers, our health, and the planet. Desrochers and Shimizu show convincingly how the much-derided globalization of our food chain has actually been an essential ingredient in our health and welfare. Moreover, by providing the international perspective so often ignored by "locavores," they show how the system's expansion will be necessary if there is to be any hope for alleviating the food shortages still suffered in many parts of the world. Now, when I buy food from local farmers (during the brief periods when their products are in season) I do it only if I think their food tastes better, not because I feel I am "doing good." This book shows how trying to use morality in making food choices can be a very dicey business indeed.
5 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Clarity on a confusing issue! 24. Dezember 2012
Von Thomas R. Degregori - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Food activism has generated a confusing plethora of overlapping movements and designations - locavores, foodies, natural food advocates, raw food ("eating closer to nature")proponents, Steinerites (or whatever the biodynamic followers of Rudolf Steiner and Demeter call themselves),anti-GM campaigners, vegans, vegetarians (at least those who seek to proselytize it),those who take Michael Pollan's pithy aphorisms as profound truths, those who eat organic whenever possible and condem "industrial agriculture" (it must be transformed or abolished) and monoculture, and a host of others far too many to name. Except for the rules for certification for organic agriculture, there is no set of rules which govern or define these movements. But it would be nice to have some proponents lay out an array of their guiding principles and a coherent explanation and defense of them. It can be argued that activists movements need not have dictated principles for all to follow but then they abdicate the right to critisize those who do not hit their personal list precisely. As someone who reads extensively on these subjects, it has been my personal observation that the media treats these various foodie manifestations favorably and uncritically accepts their claims of being healthier, more nutritious, tastier and more sustainable as undisputable facts. Food writers whose task historically has been to rate restaurants and/or give us delicious recipes feel free to pronounce on sustainable agriculture of local farms along with a host of issues of agronomy and nutrition and editors treat these sections of their publication as not being in need of oversight, fact-checking or any form of verification or validation.

Into this confusing morass (pardon the redundancy), Desrocher amd Shimizu attempt to bring a modicum of clarity and most important, put some of the claims by the locavores and similar movements to some kind of test as to validity. Theirs is a brave task trying to hit a constantly moving target. Given the huge array of beliefs, any believer can deny that what Desrocher amd Shimizu refute is not reflective of their beliefs and many already have. So what? What is the core issue here is that every claim and I mean every claim that Desrocher amd Shimizu attempt to counter is widely held and publicized and proselytized. So I would say to the critics, if the shoe doesn't fit don't wear it but do not try to deny that nobody really believes the issues raised by Desrocher amd Shimizu.

My main complaint with the book which I have already conveyed to the authors, is that they are too generous with those that they critisize and not too harsh.On the criticism that Desrocher amd Shimizu argue that the locavores and Michael Pollan are ant-science, they could have given a number of preposterous statements such as Pollan's that carbon is the most commonn element in the human body and in fact in all life forms. This is one of many absurdities from someone who allegedly teaches science journalsim. Or how about the definition of DNA in the ant-GM ordinance voted into law in Mendocino county, that DNA is a complex protein found in every cell in the human body. On issues of taste, Desrocher amd Shimizu could have challenged the advocates to put their beliefs to the test, a double blind test? Too often, when testing various claims of the locavores, Desrocher amd Shimizu use far more conservative numbers to make their case than I would. It might seem like a useful strategy but it does not save them from criticism from those who tolerate no criticism of their movement. In any case, the blemishes of Desrocher amd Shimizu's The Locavore's Dilemma are trivial compared to their many virtures.

Finally, as someone who has been involved in development and anti-poverty activities for a half century with a strong and increasing focus on global agriculture, I applaud Desrocher amd Shimizu's indication of the enormous progress that we have made in feeding the world's population. This happened as the intellectual ancestors of today's critics (or even some of the older critics) were forecasting massive famine including in the U.S. To those of us involved and undoubtedly to Desrocher amd Shimizu, the progress is less a call to celebration and more a call to continue the progress and hopefully someday eliminate hunger. What the critics do not understand is that we can not further this important endeavor unless we understand the actions (both the sucesses and the failures)that have brought us to where we are now so that we can take what we continually learn as we go forward to keep moving towards further expansion of choice for the "haves" and continued rapid reduction of the condition of being a "have not." Too many of the locavores and their fellow foodies and those who have critcized The Locavore's Dilemma have no practical experience in developing country agriculture and are promoting policies which would greatly increase hunger and poverty for those for whom they claim to be giving voice. The horrendous damage that these groups are doing to others is a topic of other books and articles - The Locavore's Dilemma is a fine book that does what it sets out to do and thereby contributes the the larger understanding of what needs to be done to feed the world's growing population.
10 von 12 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Pitfalls of Locavorism 20. August 2012
Von E. C. Pasour - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
Pitfalls of Locavorism
E.C. Pasour, Jr.
Desrochers and Shimizu have produced an interesting and highly readable analysis of what is called locavorism--the idea that an ever increasing portion of our food supply should be produced close to those who consume it. Blake Hurst, a commercial farmer and current president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, sets the tone for what follows in the Preface to The Locavore's Dilemma. It is Hurst's contention that this book attacking the tenets of locavorism would not have been necessary in a more rational world. However, it is clear that the book was needed-- locavorism is accepted "hook, line, and sinker" by the current U.S. Secretary of Agriculture: "In a perfect world, everything that was sold, everything that was purchased and consumed would be local, so the economy would receive the benefit of that" (p.5, my emphasis). This ignores the importance of comparative advantage and trade--including international trade. Everything we eat in the United States, including exotic tropical fruits, can be produced domestically. Cost considerations aside, climatic conditions can be simulated for any place in the world! The practical question is which foods should be produced locally and which should be shipped in from other areas of the U.S. or other countries?
Locavorism emphasizes the shortcomings of high tech agriculture. At the same time, it stresses sustainable, organic, local, and ethical initiatives in food production and marketing. Most of the book is devoted to rebutting what the authors identify as five myths of locavorism: (1) it nurtures social capital; (2) it delivers a free lunch; (3) it heals the earth, (4) it increases food security, and (5) it offers tastier, more nutritious, and safer food.
Locavorism fundamentally discounts the importance of the middleman in marketing. Instead of a free lunch, the authors show that locavorism, when contrasted with a global food system, would result in higher costs, more expensive food, increased waste, increased poverty, and less food safety.
The authors so effectively refute the concept of food miles--the distance from where food is produced to where it is consumed-- as a measure of production and marketing efficiency that Blake Hurst suggests "the idea will never again rear its ugly head in polite company...." The authors also analyze, and find wanting, the emphasis on organic food production in local food initiatives.
In rebutting the view that locavorism is more ethical, more attention could have been devoted to the advantages of trade to people in other countries. A global food system lowers food costs to consumers and increases incomes of farmers in distant lands--many if not most of whom have lower incomes compared to people in the United States. Moreover, the idea that locavorism is superior from an ethical standpoint because buying local fosters ties within the community that bind local people together is also suspect. Trade connects us with people in far-away lands, while parochialism encourages xenophobia, turning locals against distant people--hardly an ethical virtue!
No attention is given in the book to the concept of sustainability--another widely accepted idea in the local food movement--that deserves the same scrutiny the authors give to other aspects of locavorism.
Desrochers and Shimizu have no problem with pick your own operations and other types of marketing for locally produced seasonal fruits and vegetables, including nearby stores and restaurants. Many of us, including the authors, knowingly, sometimes pay more for such produce taking into account the tradeoff between cost and subjective attributes of quality, including taste, freshness, etc. A public policy issue arises, however, when local food proponents achieve government mandates for schools, prisons, and other public institutions to purchase pricier locally produced food. Such efforts are fostered by "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food", "Community Supported Agriculture," and other USDA subsidized initiatives that support locavorism.
Closely related, I have a small quibble with the title The Locavore's Dilemma. A dilemma is a problem offering two possibilities, neither of which is practically acceptable. For the dedicated locavore who is fully convinced of the merits of the local food movement, there is no dilemma--it is instead an unrecognized dilemma.
It is ironic that it took two Canadians to write this much-needed book about locavorism whose tenets have been widely accepted in the United States but have received little attention by U.S. agricultural economists.
The reviewer acknowledges and appreciates helpful comments by Thomas Grennes on an earlier version of this review.
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