The design of our food supply and pharmaceutical chains is vulnerable to disruption. For health, security, and economic reasons, development of local food and pharmaceuticals is necessary along with regulation of the global supply chain.
An international panel of sustainable food experts in From uniformity to diversity: A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems, available at ipes-food.org, states a global food supply chain emphasizes chemical-intensive agriculture, processed foods, antibiotic resistance, genetic uniformity, and nitrate contamination. Risks of genetic uniformity showed in the Irish Potato Famine, which resulted from reliance on just potatoes and on just one type of potato. Yet, industrial agriculture continues to rely on large tracts of corn, soy, etc.
Global commerce accelerates introduction of exotic new pathogens, insects, and animals. In Massachusetts, the Asian Long-Horned Beetle and Emerald Ash Borer are two notable insect pests wreaking harm on our forests. A global food supply emphasizes a long shelf life, leading to processing and storage which each reduce nutritional value. In some cases, the processing itself is suspect, such as irradiation of foods. Basically, a global food supply increases toxins, reduces nutritional value, and leaves plants and animals more vulnerable to disease.
A global food and pharmaceutical chain may be the norm, but is also vulnerable to deception, natural disasters and the vagaries of world dynamics. A cruel, if practical, act of war would be to disrupt global deliveries. Even without war, Hurricane Maria not only harmed Puerto Rico, but supply chains for medical supplies like IV saline bags: 43% are imported from Puerto Rico into the states. In 2008 baby formula from China was removed from shelves after finding widespread adulteration with melamine. Foreign countries are not necessarily beholden to US laws, courts, regulation, or monitoring.
Due to reliance on trucks and trains for delivery of farm products from distant acreage, the US is not designed for local food. Urban farmers are not the norm. Food waste is often tossed in the trash, rather than composted to maintain agricultural soil. Our system is enormously energy and fossil fuel intensive, rather than relying on human labor or attempting to reduce energy use.
In Massachusetts, nonprofits involved in food alternatives include Community Involved in Sustainable Agriculture, Food for Free, Gardening the Community, Nuestras Raices, and Just Roots. These models need expansion. Do pharmaceutical models exist as well?