‘Locally grown’ label more important than ‘organic’ for consumers

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MINNEAPOLIS – Consumers choose locally grown food for product freshness and to help support local small farmers.

They’re also more willing to pay a higher premium for “locally grown” than for “organic,” according to a new University of Minnesota analysis by economist Luanne Lohr.

Study details. Her analysis focused on states in the north central region of the country.

Lohr said there’s some evidence that consumers may seek more locally grown products due to concerns about food safety and agroterrorism treats.

“People feel safer buying local food, especially meat and dairy products,” she said.

Savings of diesel fuel with the reduced carbon dioxide emissions is another argument for local foods.

According to an Iowa State University study, regional distribution of produce could save 273 miles per truck haul from Chicago to the states of Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. This would save almost nine million gallons of diesel fuel per year and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 195 million pounds per year.

Rapid increase. Sales of organic food products have increased rapidly in recent years, although Lohr said there’s some evidence that growth is slowing.

Her analysis also discusses the relationships of organic products to genetically modified organisms, foreign standards, eco-labels and social goals.

Genetically modified organisms are not permitted in certified organic products. However, Lohr said entry of “mainstream” farmers and food processors into the organic industry may add pressure to permit them.

“Field contamination by cross-pollination with modified varieties may undermine efforts to keep organics GM-free,” she said.

“Refusal to label and regulate GMOs in conventional agriculture is a barrier to organic trade with Europe and Japan. Fear of contamination means loss of markets to countries that don’t permit GMOs.”

“In terms of foreign standards for organics, protectionism is likely to continue in many European Union countries,” Lohr said.

“Producers and manufacturers in the U.S. will face greater competition from foreign sources than the European Union will.”

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