locavore Locavorism, the idea that eating locally-sourced food is inherently virtuous and environmentally responsible, has become increasingly popular as a “food philosophy”. The standard argument in support of locavorism is that shipping industrially-produced food half way around the world so we can have tomatoes in January is a waste of resources and a threat to the environment. We should instead eat only food grown locally and in season, in order to reduce our carbon footprint.

I don’t normally take libertarian arguments too seriously but  this article by Pierre Desroches and Hiroku Shimizu does a pretty good job of debunking the concept of food miles and its impact on the environment. Their main point is that long distance, sea transport uses less energy per unit of food than even a short car trip.

They go on to claim that the promotion of local food is dangerous and is ” a marketing fad that frequently and severely distorts the environmental impacts of agricultural production”.

Of course “food miles” is not the only issue with regard to industrial agriculture. But the linked article is correct that it is too simplistic to think eating locally will do much to save the planet. Furthermore, in many parts of the world, including the U.S., there isn’t enough food for everyone to eat only locally.

Nevertheless, eating locally can be defended on other grounds. Locally grown food is usually fresher, safer, more nutritious, it tastes better, and it is good for the community as a whole to support local businesses.

Locavorism is not a panacea for solving the problems of industrial agriculture. It is just a good way of enjoying fresh food if you can take advantage of it.