The European directorate general for agriculture is working on a label to identify “local” products – but the project faces a number of difficulties.
It’s unclear how such a label would be regulated, according to Moya Kneafsey, a reader in human geography at Coventry University in the UK, and leader of food and communities research at the Centre for Agroecology and Food Security, writing for the Guardian. “If you have a Europe-wide label indicating produce that comes directly from a farm… what about produce that does not come completely from a farm? And would such a label have any quality criteria attached to it?”
In addition, Kneafsey says label costs could fall onto producers’ shoulders, which would effectively penalize them for selling through short supply chains – ostensibly part of the label’s aim. “Wouldn’t it make more sense to label environmentally unsustainable behaviors instead?” she asks.
The directorate is due to present a report to the European parliament, outlining the label proposal, in January. Kneafsey says the label has a fairly good chance of being approved.
It’s hard to imagine such a program working in the US, or gaining much traction here. Environmentally minded US consumers have certainly shown an appetite for buying locally. But a single program to monitor and certify that “localness” from coast to coast would be extremely complex. Large agricultural producers may also be inclined to fight such a program, if they feel it threatens their business, and they may point to their myriad of environmental programs to demonstrate that localness is not the be all and end all of sustainable agriculture. It will be interesting to see how the European label turns out, and if the US can learn any lessons from this experiment.
Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.
Picture credit: Elvert Barnes via flickr