Monday, January 11, 2010

Ground Rules for a Constructive Debate About Food and Farming

The L.A. Times has a piece worth your while proposing some ways for us to have a more constructive debate about our (currently unsustainable) food production system.  Here are a couple of the highlighted points:

 * What's political is also personal. If you believe in something, you should be willing to make sacrifices to support it, even if it's expensive or inconvenient. Wailing about farmers who use pesticides and then balking at paying extra for organic produce is hypocritical because the yields in organic farming are almost always lower. On the other hand, there's nothing wrong with doing the best you can whenever you can -- as long as you're willing to accept compromises from the other guy too.

* Finally, and most important: Beware the law of unintended consequences. Developing tasteless fruits and vegetables was not the goal of the last Green Revolution; it was a side effect of a system designed to eliminate hunger by providing plentiful, inexpensive food, but that also ended up rewarding quantity over quality. We should always keep in mind that when we're dreaming of a system that focuses on the reverse, we run the risk of creating something far worse than strawberries that bounce.

OK, I'll admit that when I see a little container of organic and local strawberries for $6, I breeze right by it.  The good news is that these days, it really doesn't take too much searching to find affordable organics.  Or even affordable local organics.

That said, the more we can convey the benefits of a sustainable food production system in terms that are immediately relevant to everyday moms, the better.  We need simple, concrete pictures and stories about how sustainably produced food is better for our kids, our health, our safety -- and at the same time, for the land and water ecosystems that support food production.

As we've reported here on this blog, a revolution in the way we produce and distribute our food is one of the great areas of promise in the coming decades for solutions that benefit both our environment and ourselves.

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