Local agribusiness encouraged to seek stomach shares

This is reposted from www.GRIID.org

Living in a period where the use of the word green is so common within the business community it is often difficult to distinguish truly sustainable practices that often are nothing more than corporate greenwashing.

Sifting through the corporate press can sometimes help clarify the mindset of those motivated by profits over those who want to make sure that everyone has access to basic rights such as food.

This was the case with an article in the January 9 issue of MiBiz, which summarized a workshop sponsored by the Van Andel Global Trade Center at GVSU, Varnum LLP, Comerica Bank and MiBiz.

The workshop featured a speaker from MSU’s ag department who stated, “for people looking at the potential of agriculture exports, you have to look for stomach share.” What the presenter from MSU meant by such a statement was that for those who grow food and want to expand their profits they need to seek out other markets for their products. In fact, another MSU spokesperson said, “if you are not engaging globally, you are losing out to your competitors.”

All of this makes sense of course within a capitalist framework, where continual growth and new markets are always sought after. The MiBiz article even states that the Michigan Economic Development Corporation provides assistance with the State Trade Export Program. This program provides all kinds of taxpayer funding for farmers who want to expand their export marketing.

Herein lies the major problem. We know that one of the most unsustainable practices within the agribusiness food system is that the average food item will travel 1,500 miles before it is eaten. This means that our current food system is highly dependent on fossil fuels, which makes it fundamentally unsustainable.

If Michigan wants to practices real sustainability, it will grow food only for people in the Great Lakes region. Not only was the workshop co-sponsored by MiBiz promoting an unsustainable food system they were advocating that those in agribusiness utilize public money to expand that kind of a food system.

The irony is that many people might buy food grown in Michigan, but still be supporting a food system that promotes export. We all need to be more diligent in asking if the food we buy locally is grown by those in agribusiness who also are seeking markets abroad. Just because we are getting it locally doesn’t mean everyone is. If we are serious about the idea of supporting localism then we must also be against local companies shipping products abroad. Shipping products and produce abroad ultimately means that communities around the world are dependent on whatever products local businesses are exporting. We can’t have it both ways.

Local food systems must support local communities and that means everywhere. We need to start seeing food as a right and a necessity for good health, not as merely commodities or stomach shares.