Local Food and International Ethics

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Many advocate practices of ‘local food’ or ‘locavorism’ as a partial solution to the injustices and unsustainability of contemporary food systems. I think that there is much to be said in favor of local food movements, but these virtues are insufficient to immunize locavorism from criticism. In particular, three duties of international ethics—beneficence, repair and fairness—may provide reasons for constraining the developed world’s permissible pursuit of local food. A complete account of why (and how) the fulfillment of these duties constrains locavorism will require extensive empirical evidence about the relationship between agricultural demand-led industrialization, international trade (rules), and local food practices. In this paper I can only gesture at some of this evidence and, for that reason, my policy prescriptions are merely provisional. Instead, the upshot of this paper is that advocates of locavorism ought to be attentive to the empirical-dependence of the moral permissibility of their projects. As local food ‘scales up’—and comes to be embraced as a goal of political communities—these concerns should receive even greater attention
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Archival date: 2015-11-21
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