Traceability systems the solution
If the problem with our food systems is, as claimed in last week’s Franklin County News, that the reason we grow food has become corrupted, where does the solution now lie?
In her paper ’’Realizing justice in local food systems’’, academic Patricia Allen (no family relationship) argues that ‘‘foodsystem localization is both an ideal and a pathway to resolve environmental, social and economic issues in the food system’’. I wholeheartedly agree.
Local food movements are growing world-wide and are predicated on two matters: sustainability and accountability.
Accountability is an issue around the world where corporate interests have succeeded in reducing the traceability of foods and in the content that must be included on food labels.
The US is a prime example of this - recent federal legislation, changed at the behest of corporates, obfuscates the labelling requirements of genetically modified foods. When (not if) the TPPA comes in to force, it is possible that food labelling requirements will be taken out of our domestic control and put in the hands of global corporates.
Local food systems, where reputation in the community is paramount, can solve these issues with easy to implement traceability systems and detailed labelling. Local, small scale and organic food systems have their opposite in industrialised food systems which are characterised by four aspects: globalisation; standardisation; the use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers; and control.
The first aspect, globalisation appeals to consumers because they can then have California oranges and grapes, for example, on the table in our off-season. Localisation avoids the climate changing carbon emissions from shipping that produce around the world.
Globalisation appeals to growers because they then have access to markets that result in greater profits. Never mind the external costs of shipping their produce around the world that others must pay for. Localisation eliminates those added costs.
The second aspect of industrialised food systems, standardisation, appeals to the food corporates because it reduces inventory system costs. Local organic food systems avoid chemical residues and, when structured as a co-op, share the control of that system with consumers, not profs-driven global corporates.
These issues of our industrialised food system will become even more of an issue in the future of lab-grown food. Studies suggest in-vitro meat could offer environmental benefits. But this would come at the cost of accountability.
So to me, the solution is a move away from industrialised systems, and towards local, smallscale organic growers operating within a co-operative business structure.
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