Monday, April 5, 2010

Sustainable Food Markets: Do Origin Labels Help People Purchase Local Organic Food?

It used to be that you could go to your local food market and stroll down the aisles, surrounded by an abundance of food that hailed from all corners of the globe. You could be oblivious to the actual origins of those products, purchasing goodies from all parts of the world with great abandon. Grapes from Chile, salad mix from China, who knew, really? As of March 2009, mandatory Country of Origin labels came into effect in the US, and this was supposed to give those purchasing this food a clue as to where it hailed from.

Yet many times companies seem to be skirting the labeling requirements. You often need to read the really, really small print to discover where your fruit and vegetables have been grown. And are the organic vegetables flown in from China really all that sustainable? Is it really good food labeling if these organic vegetables are labeled California Mix, even when they hail from places far from California?

Why should we care where our food comes from? Recent interest has moved from organic everything into local food. Sustainable food purchasing is not only about low levels of pesticides, it’s also about the carbon footprint of your food: how far has your food flown or been trucked? Food can easily have a carbon footprint that outweighs the food itself. Out-of-season strawberries are a good example. For the health-conscious, it’s important to know where your food comes from because that changes what is invisible but present on your food. If you’re not buying organic, this is especially important. Food grown in other places might contain pesticides that are not permitted in your country.

For example, in the US twenty-five percent of fresh and frozen produce is imported, and half of this comes from the US’s warm neighbor, Mexico. Want fresh fruit that is out of season? Those strawberries don’t come from Washington. But there’s a quirky and unhealthy circle going on in the realm of food purchasing. The US exports pesticides to other countries. These countries spray those pesticides on their food crops. Then companies turn around and import these pesticide-laden crops to sell to consumers at US-based markets. Pesticides that might be banned in one country are exported to another, sprayed on crops, imported by companies, and ingested by unwitting residents. This is yet another reason to support local food and to buy organic. Buying organic reduces your pesticide consumption, and buying local at least ensures that you are not purchasing foods with large quantities of banned pesticides.

There’s a market for sustainable local food. Is it being served by US-based food labeling laws? While these laws are a start, companies have a long way to go before they can truly say that fruits and vegetables for sale in stores are safe and sustainable.

1 comment:

  1. We should encourage the local market by buying fresh and healthy.these days there pesticides in food which we are serving our family and children and God know how many diseases come with it.
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