17 July 2010

Just Food by James E. McWilliams

I finally finished a book that I mentioned back in May. It's called Just Food by James E. McWilliams, and it was very interesting, but kind of boring at the same time. While the cover makes it seem like it's anti-local-foods, it's really not. He makes some good arguments about some of the fallacies of the locavores' arguments, but he is by no means pro-big-agrictulture. He takes a realistic look at the sustainability of our food and what changes need to be made to make food production more efficient and better for the environment.

My favorite paragraph:
I recently visited North Africa. Everywhere I looked I saw people who spend the vast majority of their lives in the fields, farming, hauling hay and water, following sheep, tending donkeys, and working to keep food on the table in an environment racked by aridity and sky-rocketing food prices. And there I was, earnestly reading a book about the history of terroir, a beautifully packaged volume arguing that foodies in the United States have a moral duty to nurture terroir - the taste of place - as an integral aspect of our cuisine. And why not? I would have thought if I had been reading my book back in Austin. But I was in Africa (and not even sub-Saharan Africa, where the problems are worse), and it suddenly seemed very wrong for a me - a person from a country where 2 percent of the citizens farm and 66 percent are overweight - to be getting worked up over such a precious matter while cavorting across a continent where 70 percent of the population farms and people starve in the streets.
McWilliams is a practical man. He examines several arguments made by locavores and breaks them down; not all of them are completely wrong. Many are based off of poorly designed studies or completely irrational goals. He is a huge proponent of genetically modified crops, and he makes a great case for them. In that arena, my opinion changed quite a bit. I don't know if I can agree with all of his arguments (his idea that each person should consume less than 12 pounds of meat per year seemed a little overboard, even though much of that chapter made good points about how inefficient raising livestock is), but he makes several clear points, and they are backed up well.

1 comment:

P1 Steven said...

I suggest watching the documentary FOOD INC its a good one!