Buy local or bye local

I passed a sign at a farmer’s market in the UK recently that said: “Buy local or bye local.” As a farm-bred girl, I endorse the philosophy of buying local. Indeed, I hanker back to the halcyon days of my youth when my family lived a self-sufficient utopia with an organic vegetable garden, a chicken coop, bee hives, and fields where a local farmer grazed his sheep and paid us annual rent in half a lamb for our freezer.  My sisters and I spent our days hunting for blackberries, and canoeing and swimming in the muddy river at the bottom of our garden. At least that’s how I remember it, but the rose-tinted spectacles of nostalgia probably make it sound a lot more Swallows and Amazons than it was.

Now that I live in the real world, I have to make do with shop-bought fodder.  Yet I still try to buy my fresh food locally. It’s not just about a holier-than-thou philosophy of supporting local communities and reducing environmental impact. The food tastes better and is undoubtedly healthier too.

Have you ever noticed how supermarket soft fruits such as apricots and pears go straight from unripe to moldy while bypassing the good-to-eat stage? Have you ever contemplated that those gloriously red apples on the shelves are probably over a year old? Supermarkets have found many cunning short cuts to ease the journey of thousands of miles before greens reach the shelves. These include picking fruit before it’s fully ripe; packing with sulfur dioxide to prevent mold growth; controlled-atmosphere packaging with lower levels of oxygen and higher levels of carbon dioxide than normal air; spraying with fungicides to prevent mold and 1-methylcyclopropene applications that block the biochemical changes that occur as fruit ripens and matures. All that chemistry makes for toxic fruit.

Talking of Frankenstein fruit, it seems that biotech giants such as Monsanto are currently attempting global domination of the fruit and vegetable seed market. It would sound like an over-the-top James Bond plot, if it weren’t true. What most people don’t realize is that these genetically modified monsters aren’t just patenting GMO crops. In a more sinister move, they are trying now to patent conventional, all-natural seeds such as tomatoes, cucumbers and melons.  If they succeed, growers will be forced to pay biotech companies for seeds and be sued if they refuse.  

If the GMO seed market is anything to go by, these companies won’t hesitate to sue mom-and-pop farms for petty seed infringements. The Centre for Food Safety claims that Monsanto had won $23 million from lawsuits against US farmers and small businesses for seed patent infringements by the end of 2012. Meanwhile, The Guardian newspaper reports that seed prices continue to rise across the globe as four big companies (Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont and Limagrain) already own 50% of the world’s seed market.

You may want to sign a petition or you may want to take a simple visit to your local fruit and vegetable market. I find that browsing through knobbly, mud-strewn carrots makes me feel much better. Alternatively, you can have a taste of nature brought to your door. There are several home-delivery services along the Côte d’Azur. All their crates of fruit and vegetables are organic, seasonal and sourced from local producers. Cathy from Le Potager de Cathy ( buys all her produce from Italian farmers in Piedmont ready for delivery around Monaco every Friday. Meanwhile, young mum Noëlie from Saisons et Vitalité (tel: 06-71-25-86-28; gave up her job in a bank to follow her passion for greens that she sources from Provence and Corsica. She delivers paniers (starting at 20 euros) to homes and offices around Monaco on Wednesdays. 

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