Farms to Fuel Tanks: Local Versus Global in the Food Debate

They’ve discussed pesticides, fuel and “politicized grocery carts.” They’ve called each other a “local food naysayer” and an “eco-doomster,” respectively, in a heated exchange in the Globe and Mail.

Now, authors Sarah Elton and Pierre Desrochers will meet in person to hash out their food differences, not by throwing tomatoes, but by debating where we should buy them. And you can wade into the controversy at the Spur festival’s event, The Politics of Food, at 5PM on April 27—a debate more relevant to Winnipeg than ever, as residents struggle with a series of downtown grocery store closures.

(Locals told the Winnipeg Free Press they worried access to affordable, healthy food would become a day to day problem, especially for those with low incomes.)

Sarah Elton, the author of Consumed: Sustainable Food for a Finite Planet, says such problems reflect the unsustainable nature of our food systems, which rely too much on transporting food across vast distances and using farming practices for mass production that destroy the environment. She says we need a good food revolution, driven by food from our backyards and our neighbourhoods, not from thousands of miles away.

Pierre Desrochers says she’s dead wrong.

The co-author of The Locavore’s Dilemma: In Praise of the 10,000-Mile Diet, Desrochers says the local food movement has mislead us with glowing promises of thriving, community food production that in reality creates unaffordable food and kills business elsewhere. For example, he said to Yahoo! Shine, a Canadian apple picked in September could sit refrigerated until April, which is more damaging to the environment than importing apples from New Zealand.

Get previews of Sarah Elton and Pierre Desrochers speaking by watching the videos below, then come out to hear these thinkers—and others—discuss food as health, as politics and as art at Spur Winnipeg!


Spur is a national festival of politics, art and ideas and is a catalyst for change in Canada.

Through nationally relevant and locally nuanced discussions, presentations and performances, the festival seeks to spur its participants to action on issues affecting Canadians. Feisty, multi-partisan, forward-looking, and solution-driven, this national railway of ideas will provide Canada with vital new cultural infrastructure for the 21st century.

Founded in 2013, the festival has already grown from three to five Canadian cities, with plans for further expansion across the country. Produced by the Literary Review of Canada in partnership with Diaspora Dialogues, Spur prides itself on its community partnerships, cultural connections and a focus on accessibility and diversity.

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