The Globalization of Food – Good or Bad?

In the world we live in today, most of us rely on a grocery store for our food. We don’t grow it ourselves, and we definitely don’t kill it ourselves (if you’re a meat-eater). We rely on the grocery store to bring us exactly what we want, and need. It is pre-packaged and processed so that we can consume it immediately, and probably very easily. Unfortunately, most things that are actually worth eating take time, and aren’t easy to prepare.

But have you ever wondered just where the food that you bought came from?

I think we all have become so used to being consumers that we forget to ask these very important questions. Upon taking a look in my cabinet, pondering where all these things came from, I decided to investigate a product that has become a huge part of my daily life. Coconut oil, obviously derived from coconuts. The packaging says it was packaged in Minneapolis, but I assume that’s not where the coconuts were grown.

Fruit-crops.com says that 30% of the world’s coconut crops come from the Philippines! After that were Indonesia, and India. This means that (assuming that the coconuts in my product came from the Philippines) they traveled a whopping 8562 miles to get to me, according to foodmiles.com. Food-trade has become less focused on local farmers, and become a global industry.

Almost no one sets out to be a local farmer anymore.

Growing food has become industrialized, which means it is being produced in ridiculously large numbers. This doesn’t allow for focus on growing quality food, and the use of pesticides and insecticides is out of control. The globalization of food trade has also caused a spike in food-processing and the use of preservatives, to ensure that they don’t go bad by the time they reach their destination.

For the countries who are under-developed, poor and have to import a lot of goods, this is a bad thing. Importing products that have been processed less, have less preservatives, and are held to a more strict standard of health are more expensive and out of reach for these less fortunate countries.

According to fao.org, “The value of the international food trade recently exceeded US$380 000 million per year (FAO, 1997). In 1994, Europe played a predominant role in the food trade, accounting for almost 50 percent of all imports and 45 percent of all exports. At that time Asia was the second most important contributor to international trade, with 22 percent of food imports and 18 percent of food exports. Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean had gained a significant market share, while Africa and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) held a small share of the international market.

Despite the imbalance in favour of the developed countries in the share of international trade, developing countries have been gaining a stronger foothold in global markets. Between 1980 and 1994, the contribution of the food sector of developing countries to the overall world value increased by 3.5 percent, while that of the European Union increased by 4.3 percent and that of North America by only 2.4 percent (UNIDO, 1997).”

Buying locally grown foods, is in my opinion, one of the most important things you can do to help your local economy, and to ensure that you are getting the healthiest, best version of that produce possible. It may not always be the most inexpensive option, but in this day and age the healthy option never is.

Personally, I shop for locally grown, organic produce whenever possible (usually from Sprout’s, who are huge supporters of local farmers).

References

Coconut – Cocos nucifera | Fruit Crops. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.fruit-crops.com/coconut-cocos-nucifera/

FAOSTAT. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://faostat3.fao.org/browse/Q/QC/E

Food Miles Calculator | Foodmiles.com. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.foodmiles.com/results.cfm

Food, nutrition and agriculture 21 International