Thursday, July 9, 2009

The local that isn't

The Baltimore Sun reports on the movement to label things as local, even when they aren't really:

Signs atop the produce case in Baltimore-area Safeway stores promoted "local" apples from Virginia and New Jersey. But the Granny Smiths and galas in the case hailed from Chile and New Zealand.

Under a cute farm-truck mural and the words "Home Grown," Wegmans in Hunt Valley offered eggplants grown so far away--the Netherlands--that their stickers were in French: "Aubergine." Also in that produce case: white asparagus from Peru, bell peppers from Canada--and, yes, some zucchini and yellow squash grown in the United States.

No wonder shoppers are confused. Large grocery chains, eager to get a bite of the locavore movement, are promoting produce from nearby farms - even when they have little in stock. It doesn't help that the federal government allows produce to be labeled "local" if it comes from within a 400-mile radius, which for Baltimore is roughly an arc that runs from Boston to Charleston, W.Va., to Cape Hatteras, N.C.

"It's an arms race in marketing," said Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food and Water Watch, a Washington-based consumer group that fought for country-of-origin labeling on produce....

Local produce is not only about getting things from growers immediately around you, but also about getting it directly from those growers. Some major food corporations have tried to label themselves local, even though they are in essence multinational.

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