The trouble with local food

There’s lots to like about the local food movement. Fresh, local seasonal fruits and vegetables taste better. Farmers markets enhance the vitality of city life. Cutting “food miles” reduces carbon pollution, and money spent by locavores stays with nearby growers.

Alberto Weisser, the CEO of Bunge, a $60-billion a year global agribusiness and food company is, not surprisingly, unimpressed. His global business is built on trade. Bunge operates in 40 countries. It charters 150 ships a day to carry agricultural products. Only one terminal to export grain from the US has been built in the past 25–and it was built by Bunge, near the Columbia River in Washington, to ship grain from the US to Asia.

But Weisser, who spoke today [Dec 11] at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, made a good case that an expansion of global trade  will be the best way to feed the world in a sustainable way, as well as increase the incomes of millions of poor farmers. Like it or not, he said, the world is more interdependent than ever.

Alberto Weisser

“When it comes to agriculture, no country is an island–even the ones that are islands,” Weisser said, displaying a flash of humor in what was otherwise a sober look at the issue of global food security. “I remain firm in my belief in free markets, and what they, and only they, can deliver.”

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