Plight of Bluefin Tuna is still in the news

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Hey Passionfish’ers,
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There’s no end to the news that bluefin tuna are being over-eaten…that is, until they are eaten beyond their populations’ ability to recover. Then, we’ll just read one last story–their obituary. Here’s today’s story on Yahoo! news.

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Deloitte study: People concerned about food origin and safety

fishtails
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Hello Passionfish’ers,
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Recently, the polling and consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu announced the results of a survey it conducted showing that Americans are willing to pay more for their food when product labels provide more information about a its wholesomeness and origin. Of the 1,100 Americans surveyed, 61 percent said they are concerned about nutritional healthfulness, 49 percent said they are concerned about the safety of the ingredients, and 49 percent are concerned with the safety of processing and packaging procedures. It’s clear that a lot of Americans are weary of how effective any government can be in watching out for what we eat.
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In June, Deloitte released a study called Food and Beverage 2012. This research focused on health, nutrition, and corporate accountability; regulatory directives; greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon footprint; food miles versus sustainable development; manufacturing strategies: outsourcing and private label; the role of private equity; and increasing commodity prices and new supply-chain models. May not sound interesting but it is! The “non-surprise” is that issues are not so clear cut as we are led to believe.
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Let’s look more closely at seafood. Over the past several years there has been a push to buy local. It is a great idea for many reasons: support local economies, lessen reliance on over-burdened federal food inspectors, increase regional responsibility for production practices that don’t wreck local habitats, and so on. We touched on this topic in our previous posting about buying local wild and farmed seafood.
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“Buying local” means different things to different people. Some insist that food be bought from one’s immediate neighborhood, town, city, or region (however ill defined this may be). Others think in terms of buying US-caught or farmed seafood. Of course, if your local area doesn’t have the food you desire, tough luck. That takes getting used to.
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But a curve ball came hurdling at the “buying local” mantra in a December 2006 issue of the magazine, The Economist. The authors found that contemporary food distribution systems have evolved very efficiently. Their research indicated that rather than shoppers independently driving to multiple “local” locations there is actually less of a carbon footprint when shoppers patronize central grocery stores. [Better still will be the day when mass transit is convenient and economical or when cities are designed to walk or bike to access amenities.]
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I don’t know. It’s not easy. Such things never are. They challenge us to shift our paradigms, to consider what’s counterintuitive. The last decade has seen a number of mind-bending books to accompany this article in The Economist. These include Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”, which suggests that snap judgments can yield conclusions superior to laborious analysis; James Surowiecki’s “The Wisdom of Crowds”, which argues that large groups of lay people may trump small groups of experts; Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail”, which posits that lots of money can be made by selling merchandise few people want; Michael Heller’s “The Gridlock Economy: How Too Much Ownership Wrecks Markets, Stops Innovation, and Costs Lives”, which contends that when too many people have control over a resource it is likely to be underutilized (the opposite of the exploitation witnessed by the tragedy of the commons); and Gary Nabhan’s “Renewing America’s Food Traditions: Saving and Savoring the Continent’s Most Endangered Foods”, which demonstrates that creating markets for species-at-risk is an ideal means of enlisting entrepreneurs in reversing perilous neglect. As Passionfish reveals time and again, few issues are black and white. Lasting solutions tend to reside in the gray area between the extremes. No, it’s not sexy and certainly not the most “fundable” way to look at things.
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So, this brings us back to the Deloitte study. It seems reasonable that increasing the practice of aquaculture, or farming fish, is worth considering. It has amazing potential to help us all “live right and light.” Take tilapia, a fish that is growing in popularity and easy to grow. It is yummy and healthy. By increasing supply while decreasing “food miles” we improve food security and public nutrition.
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Farming seafood in the United States is a relatively new industry. We are a country with high environmental standards and discerning consumers who want to know what the heck is in their food. We can do this right, so long as we don’t allow innovation to be shut down by clinging to simple solutions which treat symptoms but neglect causal problems.
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