The Economist has an excellent article (subscription required) this week on the appeal of organic foods and fair trade products. It also introduces us to the local-food movement, with which I was previously unfamiliar:
The rise of “Big Organic”, the large-scale production of organic food to meet growing demand, has produced a backlash and claims that the organic movement has sold its soul. Purists worry that the organic movement’s original ideals have been forgotten…
Local food need not be organic, but buying direct from small farmers short-circuits industrial production and distribution systems in the same way that buying organic used to. As a result, local food appears to be immune to being industrialised or corporatised.
The discussion of fair trade coffee echoes the objections documented in Kerry Howley’s piece for Reason, “Absolution in Your Cup.” So does the conclusion:
The idea of saving the world by shopping is appealing; but tackling climate change, boosting development and reforming the global trade system will require difficult political choices… Conventional political activity may not be as enjoyable as shopping, but it is far more likely to make a difference.