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Lara Smallman
Campaigner, film-maker, blogger (London, United Kingdom)

Self-taught film-maker interested in exploring human rights issues. See more on


Time to stop vegging out?

Published 01st October 2010 - 7 comments - 4456 views -

Make sure you get your five-a-day - something we're reminded of constantly, if not by Government campaigns, then by supermarkets trying to sell us as much fruit and veg as we can possibly stomach.

One thing I can't stomach though, is the real cost of the exotic array of tasty delights on my plate.

It needn't be this way.

Last week, I wrote a post about the difficult choice consumers in developed countries face. A daily choice, of whether to support a developing countries' economies by buying its exports, or resist the temptation and stick with something rather more bland, a cauliflower perhaps, if you're in England.

I wrote about the humble green bean, known also as the green dollar, for its popularity has transformed the lives of many Kenyans. Asparagus is having the same impact in Peru, the world's biggest asparagus exporter, and cherry tomatoes are changing the the fortunes of Moroccans. But in the driest parts of the world, water shortage is not something to be overlooked. Farming there is on an industrial scale (in a bid to meet our demands), and water is fast running out. It can be overlooked no longer. Fortunately there is an answer, maybe even two:

Is supersizing the future?

Instead of relying on foreign exports, putting a strain on Peru, Kenya or any other country for that matter, we could take it upon ourselves to do some DIY. In fact, Britain has already started to - building supersize greenhouses, designed to supply the supermarkets with a sizeable chunk of the vegetables we eat. That means a reduction in the colossal carbon footprint flying veg from thousands of miles away. It also means we're putting less strain on the scarce water resources in many developing countries.

Another possible solution?

Alternatively, supermarkets, British or otherwise, could start to take some responsibility, focus on water management in the countries they buy from, and that way, continue to support emerging economies.

Or maybe, you think a compromise between the two would be ideal: increase our own self sufficiency, take the strain off, and at the same time, invest in water management?

Category: Agriculture | Tags:


  • Giedre Steikunaite on 01st October 2010:

    I agree Lara, they could.

    But why would Tesco or Sainsbury’s or any other of them bother? They get millions of customers every day, who will take whatever is on the shelves as long as it looks good and the price doesn’t bite. Aha! That’s the answer then - the famous “vote with your wallet” concept.

    But even for that, a change of mind is needed: if a consumer wants asparagus for their dinner tonight, they don’t really care if it came from Peru or Yorkshire, or if Peru’s water shortage is putting many of its people in suffering. All they care about is their dinner that includes asparagus.

    I agree with you completely.. So sorry for this negative burst of thoughts. A bit disillusioned lately.

  • Lara Smallman on 01st October 2010:

    I’m glad of the honesty, thanks!

    I totally agree. The supermarkets aren’t going to push for it. We need to push them. Post coming up soon on ‘voting with your wallet’, we can achieve a lot with the way we shop, or don’t.

    Seeing them invest in infrastructure abroad is a long way off, I agree with you on that. But once they realise they can save a lot by buying from the UK, things will change. It will lead to them easing off on relying on foreign imports, which should mean that there’ll be more water for the natives. It’s a start…

  • Giedre Steikunaite on 01st October 2010:

    Exactly. Money is the only international language that everybody, even the greediest ones, understands.

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