A New Argument for the 10,000-Mile Diet: Is Locavorism a Crock?

Posted by Zachary Slobig

Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu, a Canadian husband-and-wife team (he's an economic geographer, she's a policy analyst) is out to upend the turnip cart. The local food movement is badly misguided, they say. In their new book, they've outlined what they call the five essential myths of locavorism: the nurture of social capital, a boost to the local economy, a low environmental impact, safer and more nutritious food, and greater food security, and assembled academic arguments they believe punch those "myths" full of holes. Desrochers told the Toronto Star:

There have been plenty of local food movements in the last century and they never last long. People ultimately vote with their wallets. Local food producers will always have a place, but it may be a niche. They won’t survive by producing more expensive tomatoes.

In the era of the 100-mile diet, such talk is blasphemous (we here at GOOD have generally embraced the idea that local is better) but there's always room for healthy skepticism, and Desrochers and Shimizu have academic company as locavore nay sayers. Check out Desrochers' argument for why buying local food is a drag, not a boost, to the economy.

It destroys more jobs than it creates. Let’s say the same quality tomato is grown for $1 in Florida and $1.50 in Ontario. If you push the local one, you create tomato-growing jobs in Ontario. But consumers have 50 cents less to spend on other local services or goods, which destroys jobs. There’s a lot more consumers than producers. To create a few jobs you’re penalizing millions and the overall economic effect is detrimental.

The duo's very title takes direct aim at the U.C. Berkeley Professor who many credit for kicking off the modern local food renaissance and you've got to be one very well prepared skunk to spoil that garden party. It'll be interesting to see how Desrochers and Shimizu's message is received.

Photo (cc) Flickr user athrasher