Thursday, September 17, 2009

Organic vs. Local Food

The current predicament of the U.K. meat industry says a lot about our food system.

Meat producers in the U.K. rely on soy grown across the Atlantic in the U.S., Argentina and Brazil, where, unfortunately, non-transgenic soy is quickly becoming obsolete. Losing this source of affordable feed will cause meat prices to skyrocket above levels that consumers are willing to pay. I don't know if there're any significant numbers of boutique/locally-fed cattle in the U.K., but I've been told that a U.K. cattle association recently forecasted an end to the British beef industry altogether if anti-GM regulations aren't loosened. Accordingly, the U.K. government will be lobbying the E.U. to streamline its approval process for transgenic crops.

If organic beef in the U.K. really does rely on feed shipped across the Atlantic, it would be an interesting wrinkle in the public understanding of "sustainable" agriculture. It's certainly not a model of sustainability to ship feed thousands of miles - especially if rainforests were burned to grow it. And as long as you're shipping it, it would use less energy to ship pounds of meat instead of the tons of grain that go into it...

I don't know what the best solution is - but arbitrary prejudice against transgenic crops isn't it. I hope the E.U. continues to warm to a more reasonable level of regulation.


  1. I'd never looked at it that way. I know places like New Zealand export meat so it must be economically viable to raise meat in South America and ship it to Europe.

    Overall Europe seems much more dependent on food imports than America and Canada. Grains from South America, vegetables and eggs from Africa. It means their views on GMOs have an outsized impact in the developing world.

  2. I would think so, there's extensive ranching in South America - much on former rainforest land. I don't know what their typical business plan is, but it's certainly not all consumed locally.

    It's a good point about GMO influence too. I'm encouraged that countries such as India, China, Brazil and Argentina increasingly seem to be making decisions for themselves as opposed to kowtowing to Western 'experts.' Though I haven't heard much good news out of Africa. I get the impression many African countries are more beset by corruption and a lack of infrastructure to begin with.

  3. Hey Mat, have you seen this? (This is the first of five parts.)



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