The recent New York Times op-ed suggesting that local food isn’t the be-all and end-all of sustainability generated quite a bit of discussion around the Worldwatch office. Many of us who are committed to eating local food agreed with the author—himself an admitted locavore—on many points.
At a potluck dinner last night, in the midst of local skirt steak, Montauk scallops, a frittata made with the year’s first potatoes, and a salad made with the year’s first tomatoes, the conversation naturally turned to the origin of our foods.
A couple of recent studies indicate that climate change is already reducing crop yields around the world, and has reduced the global food harvest by about 40 million tons a year over the last 20 years. This is a small fraction of the 2 billion tons harvested in total. But it still represents a few billion dollars and is even more costly to the farmers who are hardest hit by drought, flooding, or extreme heat and cold.
A must-read report by Ussif Rashid Sumaila and Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia's Fisheries Center, entitled "Catching More Bait: A Bottom-up Re-estimation of Global Fisheries Subsidies," estimated "conservatively" that governments give fishing fleets between US$30–34 billion per year, nearly double the prevailing World Bank estimate of US$14–20 billion.
Eating right for the oceans isn't always easy. A colleague at the Sea Around Us Project out of the University of British Columbia just wrote an interesting essay on why choosing sustainable seafood isn't enough to save the world's fish.
Last year, a team of marine scientists reported that if current fishing practices continue, the world's major fish populations would be effectively extinct by the middle of the century. In light of these challenges, last week the National Fisheries Institute, the leading advocacy group for the U.S. seafood industry, "spun" a panel on fisheries at the AAAS Annual Meeting in San Francisco, pointing to "the enormous potential for sustainable growth of healthy farmed seafood production, notably through advancements in feed efficiency and the ability to expand production in marine environments."