Tuesday, 29 August 2006

Eating globally

Much as we might all try to Think Globally and Act Locally, sometimes it is not possible. And sometimes it is not even desirable. Supermarkets may not be the best thing for the environment, but they are here to stay, and I along with the overwhelming majority, use them. When using them I try to apply some basic moral principles. I do try and buy mostly organic food, but not at the cost of thousands of airmiles. And perhaps of more doubtful value, I try and support the economies of those countries I have enjoyed visiting. Hence I buy Argentinian and Sicillian wine. When I can find them I buy organic or fair trade bananas from Ecuador or Belize. And organic/shade grown coffee. It is worth reminding onself that not all long distance foods involve airmiles. Bananas and wine are still shipped by sea, at relatively low environmental cost. I won't by wine from the USA and I won't buy Israeli citrus. While I might have political issues with both regimes, this is also because of their environmental records. Israel has sprayed crops and destroyed cave-dwelling bats, while the USA's position on climate change is outrageous. I do not think for one moment that my stance makes one jot of difference. But it does make me feel very slightly better as I go through the check out.


  1. I beg to differ on the very last point.
    I reckon that it really does matter, and more profoundly does have a real effect. This is because where well-informed people lead in their actions, others do usually follow.
    Wishful thinking? Well, I clearly remember 1998 and being told unequivocally by supermarkets, the biotech industry AND meedja'n'politico's that genetic engineering in foodstuffs was here to stay, THE future, done and dusted, get used to it, game over.

    They were wrong. Badly wrong. By hook or by crook, the public became apprised of the issues and turned massively against GM food largely through informed stands from resolute people. Altho' the issue is not resolved, no one can claim that the 'market-place' has been left unchanged. Organic foods used to be sneeringly derided as only for foodies and middle-class lovies. Now even bloody Tesco's tries to convince us that they too are enthusiasts. Hyperbole maybe but ten years ago that was unthinkable.
    Please keep thinking Mr Burton. It's doing the planet a lot of good in the midst of all the madness!

  2. Thanks for the feedback. It's nice to know that out there there are others who think aloke.

  3. The usual sensible, pragmatic approach, John! (Except if you really acted locally you would buy Adnams!) I am sure the feel-good factor accounts for many of our apparently altruistic acts. That's why I regularly donate to the WLT :)

    But I am not sure Anonymous is necessarily right. I remember when boycotting South African goods had no effect, although public pressure has made smoking a pariah.

    I am not very well-informed (i.e. I only read the papers and watch TV) but I gather GM foods are creeping back into favour, at least in certain circumstances. I regard GM as a very rapid and accurate form of selective breeding. It's the use of it that is controversial. Thus (unless I have missed something) I can't see what is wrong with a strain of potatoes that resists blight but am not happy with strains of plants that resist weedkiller so that crops can be drenched with it to remove all other forms of plant life.

    As to organic food, Tesco has an eye for a good seller! But can organic food ever become more than a niche market? Will organic, or even less-intensively grown, food be able to supply our ever-increasing population?