Andrea Verykoukis over at the Progressive Pulse urges us to "buy local" in light of the feed scare created by a Chinese company having adding chemicals to animal fodder.
First, there is no reason to think that local farmers might not have bought the feed, themselves. To think otherwise would suggest a deep faith in local farmers’ also buying local — particularly when they can buy more cheaply abroad (and – gasp – profit).
Second, the "buy local" fetish is based on a very narrow understanding of how wealth is created and concentrated as these bright economists discuss (posted here before). Obviously Verykoukis should be free to shop where she likes — and I certainly love my local farmer’s market — but encouraging people only to "buy local" as a matter of principle misses out on the gains from buying abroad (notwithstanding the miniscule risks associated with tainted feed from China). [Oh, and poor people in other countries live better lives when we trade with them.]
Finally, the "dose makes the poison." Irrational fears of chemical toxicity underlie almost all liberal warnings for people to buy local and organic. But even water can be toxic if consumed at a certain level. Most pesticides and other agents are not toxic at the concentrations found in foods. Such is not to apologize for this Chinese food fraud, but for heaven’s sake — go, eat, and buy what you like. You have a better chance of having your health adversely affected by your drive to the farmer’s market.
(Note: We should probably be more concerned about germs like e Coli found in organic food.)