Bryan McDonald, Assistant Professor in Science, Technology, and Society at Penn State, contributed this question:
Should we strive to buy foods that are grown locally and, if so, to what extent?
He articulated the importance of this question as follows:
More and more people are asking questions about when it makes sense for them to strategically decouple from global food systems through actions like buying, growing or supporting local foods. These actions are driven by many factors including, but certainly not limited to:
- Health – Desires for foods that are perceived to be less modified, processed or industrial and thus more healthy
- Sustainability – Interest in supporting foods that have less negative effects on people and nature and are part of promoting more resilient and sustainable agrifood systems
- Community and aesthetics – Interest in fostering the development of community, preserve ways of life and patterns of ownership in food systems and protect the character of landscapes
- Economics – Purchasing decisions driven by factors like desires for different sorts of relationships between producers and consumers and different valuations of the worth of food
In each of these factors we can see ethical dimensions as local foods are becoming tied in with preferences to establish and nurture different sorts of relationships with nature and people. Since food is such a common means of interacting with people and nature, it can become a focal point for these desires and it is well worth thinking more about how desires for local food link into needs for food that is ethically, economically and environmentally sustainable.