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.
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One Response to Bryan McDonald on Eating Locally

  1. Sarah Dills says:

    Our group felt that all of the issues are important and nothing to be taken lightly – we felt that this issue was of particular importance since it links to several of the other issues and acts as the root of various other problems such as those related to medical, economic, and environmental problems.

    We decided that we’d like to see more support for private farms and industries, and less dependence on imports and corporal industries. Goods should be transported the shortest distances possible since it’s A. More economical B. Uses less packaging (or allows for a borrowing system such as that of Myer Dairy’s returnable glass bottle system) and less energy (environmental benefits) which link to less pollution (since crude oil-derived energy makes up the majority of transportation fuel sources). C. There are Health benefits since carbon emissions from transportation are less, and issues discussed in the following paragraphs are prevented or solved.

    Goods should be of highest quality, and produced/raised with strong ethics in mind. Traditional farming techniques are often preserved and handed down from generation to generation in family-owned private farms. We believe these values and strong desire to maintain a quality farm (especially when instilled in the farmer over their lifetime through lessons handed down from previous generations that are less familiar/before the time of major corporal farming with modern technology) help maintain animal-right and environmental values.

    Also, when we talk about food processing and farm locations outside of the US products and raw materials that come from these places are not always grown or produced with the same quality expectations and work environment as the US holds. The FDA has set some pretty strict regulations, when these regulations are followed and enforced by proper authorities — it is a lot less likely we’ll experience any issues associated with safety and ethical concerns although there are some concerns in relation to processing and growing techniques we may question. The use of pesticides is legal even though we know that they are harmful — supporting authentic organic farming and buying items fresh from local areas (cutting the need for far travel) can reduce or even completely remove the need for preservation through dangerous preservation methods such as nitrates used in meats, or unhealthy amounts of salt in canned goods.

    In conclusion, we decided if local locations are more efficient, keep quality tradition in the industry, and provide us with the ability to obtain quality goods that are produced, processed, and packaged with our environmental, ethical values that form the framework for prevention of the health concerns associated with the production methods that contradict our values and concerns — it definitely should be the preferred method of farming and factory distribution.

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