Q & A with the Author

Dear Linda,

Can you answer my friend Mark’s question about whether it’s better to  eat conventionally grown produce from local sources (he lives in Boston) or organic produce from other parts of the country or world? I figured if anyone knew for sure it would be you !
Heidi

Question:

Heidi,

There aren’t enough choices among the food items.  We eat organic and local whenever possible now.  Other than listing both “Seasonal Fruit” and “Tropical Fruit”, I didn’t see any foods that made any distinction like that.  And I expect it makes a big impact.

On a related topic, I haven’t been able to get a good answer to the question: if the type of produce I want to buy is available in two versions–conventional from my region, or organic from across the country (or even central America)–which is the best choice?   I suspect that the answer depends on which specific produce, and whether you value global or local issues more.  But I can’t seem to find anything comparing this so that I can make a more informed decision.
– M

Answer:

Hi Heidi,
Thanks for thinking of me for this!
Your friend’s question is a perfect example of the complexity of the food options. Generally, I favor organic because getting poisons out of our system is so crucial! And organic is good for your health, which means less medicines down the line.

The locavore campaign has attracted criticism and I think you’d have to do the math on every product you buy in order to make the “right” decision. Since nobody is going to do that, it’s a matter of probabilities.

How local are the local options? As with every other damn thing that is good, big business has coopted it — I heard of one person who found that her local supermarket was labeling “local” anything grown in the United States!  Cheating!  And if it’s truly local, how do they get it to the market — in a decrepit pickup truck (not good) or by rail (better)? And how much packaging is involved in either case?

Also, there might be local growers who are not certified organic but who are “in transition” — the 3-year buffer period after they used their last poisons but their soil is not clean yet. Some growers also don’t want to go to the bother of certification.

Another factor is WHO is the grower. If it’s a subsidiary of agribusiness, it’s linked to the heavyweight industrial system. If it’s a small family farm, whole other story.

I do one quick short cut: Eliminate the farthest foods first. No apples from New Zealand, no wine from South Africa. There’s a checklist for going local in my book (along with all the other material about organic, packaging, diversity, etc) — maybe you could suggest that your friend buy a copy!

It’s always heartening to know there are people out there willing to do the right thing for themselves and the planet!!

Linda

Thank You:

Linda,

Thanks for your prompt & thoughtful answer, I have forwarded it to my
friend along with links to your two books on Amazon (I actually think he
already has a copy of the first one).

Heidi

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