After watching the video presentation by Louise Fresco on TED called “The Case for White Bread”, I don’t quite agree with what she said, but I remember one question she asked: “How many of you can actually tell wheat apart from other cereals?”（Fresco）. And I’m reminded of what my father used to say, when I was very little. He pointed to a large green field and asked me: “Can you make a distinction between wheat land and grassland?” I felt quite ashamed that I couldn’t answer this simple commonsense question. Because my father was born and grew up in rural, farming and nature have been an essential concept that deeply rooted in his heart. Nowadays, most of us buy food from a supermarket near our home. We rarely go and visit local farms. As a consequence, we have no idea how vegetables or fruits grow or what kind of fields they are planted in. I believe that it is crucial to move toward local food systems instead of keeping the current industrial agriculture. Rebuilding small-scale food systems can help most poor farmers who live in developing countries get rid of poverty and backwardness, retard climate change and environmental deterioration, and greatly enhance the connectedness between consumers and local food producer groups.
First of all, moving toward locally owned food systems can eliminate global hunger and poverty by increasing incomes for poor farmers. Surprisingly, the truth is that the majority of the world’s poor populations are dependent on agriculture, and 50 percent of the people who suffer from hunger are small-scale farmers (qtd. in Johnson 398). One reason that farmers who live in developing countries suffer is that the distribution of food prices returning to farmers is an exploitative trade. In China, the food prices sored 12 percent in 2007, but farmers’ living conditions and incomes did not change at all. However, a food dealer said the truth: from procurement, processing to marketing each of the middlemen captured a high profit but not farmers (Xinhua news, par. 7). This phenomenon exists not only in most of the developing countries, but also in some First World nations. “Fifty years ago, farmers in Europe and North America received between 45-60 percent of the money that consumers spent on food” (Pretty par.8), but now, that proportion has plummeted to just 7 percent in the UK and 3.5 percent in the USA (Pretty par.8). Another reason is that highly concentrated supermarket chains always offer consumers lower prices while destroying locally owned food stores. As a consequence, poor farmers who owned retail stores lost their jobs and lands gradually. They lack adequate money to make a living and they struggle with financial difficulties. As long as farmers do not have to compete with multinationals and supermarket chains, they will gain great benefits.
Secondly, local food systems are greener than industrial agriculture. According to the video called “How I Fell in Love with a Fish”, Dan Barber said that they have been fishing the seas like they clear-cut forests for the past 50 years (Barber). Indeed, the problem is not only in the fishing industry, but also in many other industries. If we had grown food with fewer antibiotics or herbicides, the earth and ocean would not have been so contaminated. What’s more, most food travels hundreds, even thousands, of miles from farm to plate. As a result, transportation processes emit a large amount of carbonic-acid gases, which are leading to climate change (qtd. in Johnson 397). However, if we develop the local food systems, the shipping distances will not be as far as for industrial agriculture. Consumers will benefit from the freshest local foods, while we won’t need to worry about the potential for climate change.
Finally, creating a strong sense of connectedness between consumers and local food producer groups will help people understand nature better. People will notice that they could learn a lot from farmers’ markets. “Children will learn a carrot is not a glossy orange bullet that comes in a bag but is actually a root” (qtd. in Johnson 390). We could observe how vegetables grow and see what the real flavor of a fruit is. In a way, people are reestablishing the connection with nature through those fresh vegetables and their planters.
Some opponents argue, how could local food systems feed the whole world? Based on the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reports, the world’s population has been estimated at more than 8 billion by 2030 (qtd. in Johnson 358). As the world’s population continues to boom, it seems that moving toward local food systems might not solve the basic problem. They argue the world hunger will last much longer, because local food systems cannot serve sufficient food to sustain lives.
However, the fact is that the world has produced enough food to more than feed the world. “Because of gross inequalities in distribution, not tonnage makes one billion people go hungry even today” (Barber). The problem that causes huge amounts of people to suffer hunger is the unfairness of the global food trade system, as Dan Barber said, there is not too little food. What’s more, neither science nor technology is a panacea for world hunger. In order to solve this problem, we have to figure out a better distribution system. Local food systems are a way to increase farmers’ incomes and distribute consumers’ money more fairly.
In a word, moving toward a local food system has many benefits. Farmers could get the benefits they deserved, making trade equal and reasonable; environment and resources could be developed sustainably; consumers could get more chance of communicating with local food growers and learning from nature.
Barber, Dan. “How I Fell In Love With A Fish.” TED.com. Mar. 2010. 4 Jul. 2012 <http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_barber_how_i_fell_in_love_with_a_fish.html?quote=661>.
Fresco, Louise. “How to Feed the Whole World the Case for White Bread.” TED.com. Feb. 2009. 8 July. 2012. <http://blog.ted.com/2009/05/08/how_to_feed_the/>.
Johnson, June. Global Issues, Local Arguments: Readings for Writing. Pearson Education, Inc. 2009.
Pretty, Jules. “Some Benefits and Drawbacks of Local Food Systems.” 2 Nov. 2001. 4 Jul. 2012 < http://www.sustainweb.org/pdf/afn_m1_p2.pdf>.
Xinhua news. Xinhuanet.com Sep 2. 2007. Jul 5. 2012. <http://news.xinhuanet.com/newscenter/2007-09/02/content_6647588.htm>.