By Dan Shapley
The idea seems so clear, progressive and right, but why is it so hard to figure out what a sustainable food supply is? According to experts who gathered Monterey Bay Aquarium's 2nd annual Sustainable Foods Institute, it is hard to figure out. Anyway, they can't agree. Certainly local is better than trucked from afar, because it requires far less energy to get food from the farm to your plate. Unprocessed is better than processed for much the same reason -- fewer ingredients and less manufacturing means less energy. Organic trumps its alternative because it refrains from the use of petroleum-based chemical fertilizers and pesticides, reducing not only the energy needed to grow the crop but the load of toxics shouldered by the environment. But try and untangle the relative benefits of the three, or define what a truly sustainable food system would look like, and the experts may not get tongue-tied, but their various assessments are as divergent of the branches of a tree. Let's assume, at least, that it's an organic apple tree, close to home, according to a story in the May 23 Los Angeles Times.