Opinion Column

THE DUEL: Putting the bite on 100-mile diet


In The Duel, 24 hours columnists David Eby and Kathryn Marshall battle over the issues of the day. Who's the winner this week? Fire us an email at van24feedback@sunmedia.ca. 150 words or less please.

THIS WEEK'S TOPIC - What does the 100-mile diet cost?

Lots of people are jumping on the 100-mile diet bandwagon these days. The Locavore Diet generally promotes eating food grown within a 100-mile radius of your home. It's great to support local farmers and eating fresh food is healthy. Who doesn't love going to a farmer's market and biting into a fresh B.C. strawberry?

Some locavore activists are even pushing for local-only food sourcing policies.

But here's one reason why the concept behind the 100-mile diet is flawed: cranberries.

Amazingly, about 10% of the world's cranberries are grown right here in B.C. where the soil and climate happen to be perfect for cranberry production.

Read Dave Eby's column

Now, that's a lot of cranberries. There isn't enough market in B.C. to consume all those cranberries, let alone within a 100-mile radius. So most of the cranberries are exported for consumption elsewhere.

If we all became locavores, unless we started eating cranberries for every meal, many of those cranberry farmers wouldn't have the market for their produce anymore. The same goes for potato farmers in P.E.I., grain farmers on the Prairies and beef farmers in Alberta.

And if cranberries did become our diet staple, what would we do if we had a bad crop one year?

The reality is that not all regions are the same. Climates and soils vary. Some areas receive lots of rain while others are dry. Some regions are small and populated. Other regions are sparsely populated with lots of farmland and space for cattle. Plain and simple, some parts of the world are better suited to grow some things than others.

That's why B.C. grows 10% of the world's cranberries and 0% of the world's pineapples. Trade allows us to enjoy food from all parts of the globe and the market economy responds to many different kinds of consumer demands. We can chose to purchase organic produce, free-range chicken and fair-trade coffee. We can also choose to buy locally produced food instead of imported. Grocery stores often sell both.

Strictly followed, it seems the 100-mile diet would be like turning back the clock, to a time before it was easy to trade with faraway lands. A time when diets had a less variety and food was expensive. There's nothing wrong with enjoying the benefits of the modern world of easy trade, while also enjoying homegrown fare.

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