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The Locavore's Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-Mile Diet    by Pierre Desrochers & Hiroko Shimizu order for
Locavore's Dilemma
by Pierre Desrochers
Order:  USA  Can
PublicAffairs, 2012 (2012)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

The popular belief that many of the planet's ills can be addressed by producing our food supply closer to where we live is taken to task in this controversial book.

Co-authors Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu do not agree that locavorism will simultaneously heal the earth, create jobs, ensure a more reliable and nutritious food supply, and improve physical, spiritual, and societal health.

In fact, they argue that just the opposite is true.

'Our goal in writing this book was to redress the one-sidedness of current discussions on locavorism. We make no bones about the fact that what we present is our personal take on several complex issues,' write the authors in the book's preface. 'To the open-minded locavores who are still with us, be assured that our conclusion that a balanced diet includes a healthy portion of foods grown far away from your favorite farmers' market is entirely derived from our research and best judgment.'

This feisty deconstruction of the eat local ethos implies that locavorism is pretty much a marketing fad that only distorts the real environmental impacts of agricultural production and serves as a distraction from the true impact of modern food production, the risk to food affordability and the economic welfare of developing countries.

Among the popular myths Desrochers and Hiroko challenge are the idea that locavorism nurtures social capital, increases food security, heals the Earth and offers tastier, more nutritious and safer food. They also suggest that if the policy steps needed to make locavorism a reality were ever accepted and enforced, the food supply chain would be even more globalized than it is now.

Some of the pesky questions the authors' politically incorrect premise raise include if local food production in earlier eras was so wonderful, why did consumers increasingly favor items from ever more remote locations?

Also, if our modern food system is so bad for us, why do we now enjoy dramatically longer and healthier lives than our ancestors? And, finally, how can these less efficient methods or alternatives to food production provide adequate and affordable nutrition to an ever-growing world population? This becomes a particularly thorny question when one considers that in the coming decades the developing countries will need even more food than they do now.

Pardon the pun, but there is plenty of food for thought in this unconventional, provocative look at how we should go about feeding the masses. The authors realize they will alienate some readers, but they also hope enough people keep an open mind to listen to what they have to say. They certainly make some very interesting points and raise concerns that must be addressed.

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