Jul 01 2018

Where are your fruits and vegetables coming from?

Published by at 2:06 pm under Organic

Where are your fruits and vegetables coming from?
Produce imported from all over the world is at higher rates than ever before.

Summer is here with its abundance of delicious fruits and vegetables. If you are lucky enough to live in an area where crops grow in abundance, you can pick up local fruits and veggies everywhere that are freshly picked from the vine. This is such a great time of year to eat in a healthy way because everything tastes so good. Peaches, nectarines, cherries, grapes, berries, watermelon, artichokes, corn….it is all in season!

According to the USDA’s 2012 agricultural census data, “…California produces the nation’s largest assortment and volume of fruits and vegetables on nearly 4.4 million acres. They lead production in broccoli, artichokes, kiwis, plums, celery, garlic, cauliflower, spinach, carrots, lettuce, raspberries, and strawberries. Of its 100 million acre land mass, 1.2 million are used to grow vegetables. Other major vegetable producing-states are (in order) Idaho, Washington, Wisconsin, Florida, and Minnesota with between 370,000 and 230,000 acres…” (1,2,3)

Fruits and vegetables in most states are in season for a short period of time. In some  states where climates are mild and there is large areas of fertile, arable land, such as California, Florida, Arizona and Texas, seasons may last a little longer.(1,2)*

Steadily, over the years, it has become that we can get out of season fruits and vegetables at the grocery store during months where you know these fruits and vegetables are not in season. That is because produce imports have steadily increased for decades and  “…more than half of the fresh fruit and almost a third of the fresh vegetables Americans buy now come from other countries…”(1,2)*

US consumers are no longer experiencing the restrictions of the seasons as in the past. When the summer season ends here, it starts somewhere else. In the winter, our blueberries come from South America. Back in the 1970s, the US exported produce, but today our nation is a net importer. From 1999 to 2014, the volume of US fruit and vegetable imports increased from 35% to 50%.1*

The growth in imported produce, mainly from Canada and Latin America is a result of a steady flow of changes that has taken place over the last 40 years.  Better roads, containerized and refrigerated shipping and upgrades in storage technology have all made it possible. Horticulturists have also been hard at work developing varieties and different growing methods that have adapted berries to warmer climates. This has enabled blueberries and blackberries to be grown in central Mexico.(1,2)*

American incomes have also grown along with their appetite for fresh produce year round. Back in the day, when the winter months came, people ate canned and frozen vegetables, and fresh produce was something to look forward to in the summer. “…From 2010-2012 fresh fruit accounted for 52% of Americans’ per capita consumption, up from 42% in 1970-1972; while processed fruit (canned, juice, frozen, and dried) fell steadily from a peak of 171.3 lbs. per person in 1977 to 113.7 lbs. per person in 2012. Within the processed category, canned and juice consumption has declined the most from 1970 to 2012. Growth in the frozen fruit category was attributed primarily to the popularity of frozen berries…”1*

There are other factors as well that have led to an increase in produce imports. International trade and regulatory hurdles at home have shifted production to other countries, mainly Mexico. Foreign growers have taken advantage of of lower labor costs as well. 2*

The United States Department of Agriculture over the past two decades has issued approximately 100 new rules which have allowed additional crops into the US. These are crops that previously were not allowed due to the risk of them introducing invasive pests and diseases. Through new “systems approaches” that manage those risks such as orchard inspections, sprays and bagging of fruits, produce such as peppers from Peru, are now allowed in.2*

Here are some interesting statistics:

  • From 1998 to 2012, spring produce imports have more than tripled and fall imports increased 4.5 fold.2*
  • Over 90% of imported fruits and vegetables come from Mexico, Central America and South America.2*
  • “…According to a recent Agriculture Department report, fresh produce imports will rise 45 percent from 2016 to 2027, implying that a decade from now, three-quarters of our fruits and almost half of our vegetables will be imported…”2*
  • With more than 80% of our fish being imported, it looks like produce may be heading in the same direction.

So the question is, what are the pros and cons of imported produce?

Pros:

-We have fresh produce available to us year round and a plant based diet still leads the way in the healthiest way to eat and is best for our planet. (1,2)*

-Fruit and vegetables grown in the right climate overseas can use fewer resources for farming as opposed to growing out of season produce in heated greenhouses domestically. (1,2)*

-Imported produce can sometimes be fresher and more flavorful than domestic produce. Gala apples from New Zealand can be crunchier than the same variety coming from American orchards which were picked the previous fall. (1,2)*

-Much of the imported produce costs less than that grown domestically. Additionally, competition from imports keeps domestic prices down. (1,2)*

Cons:

-We may suffer quality. Imported produce may be picked less ripe, with more durable varieties being selected at the expense of flavor. (1,2)*

 -In many fruits, acidity drops with time and “off flavors” can develop. An example is cherries that are weeks old may still look great but lack flavor. (1,2)*

-Domestic asparagus which is grown mainly in California, Michigan and Washington is usually plumper and juicier with more flavor than that imported from Mexico and Peru which can be rubbery and fibrous. (1,2)*

-Some nutritional value is lost over time, especially with Vitamin C. (1,2)*

-Imported produce may not follow the same federal standards for pesticide residues.  “…Of some concern is a 2015 report from the Food and Drug Administration that found that 9.4 percent of imported fruit samples violated federal standards for pesticide residues, compared with 2.2 percent of domestic samples. (For vegetables, the figures were 9.7 percent for imported and 3.8 percent for domestic.) But that’s probably not enough to justify avoiding imported produce…” There have been reports of fraud from countries like Costa Rica and China which has raised concerns as to whether produce labeled organic is as reliably free of pesticide residue as our domestic equivalents…” (1,2)*

-Because imported produce travels farther, do they cause greater carbon emissions and pollution? (1,2)*

I still encourage you to look for the words ‘Organic’, ‘farm to table’, ‘locally grown’. These are the buzz words today at many restaurants, farmers markets and grocers. We can see why. We want to know where our foods are coming from and if we know they are being grown locally, we have a little bit more control over knowing how they are being grown. Farmers Markets are a great way to know you are buying local. While having access to fresh fruits and vegetables year round seemingly outweighs the fact that they are imported from around the world, it helps explain why quality and tasted are often lacking. You can influence things by choosing where you shop, where you eat and reading labels.

Eating fresh produce is important to good gut health. Taking Body Biotics™ Bio-Identical SBO Probiotics Consortia™ daily, combined with a non-processed, whole foods, primarily plant based diet, will help your gut stay healthy and populated with the friendly bacteria it needs to aid in proper digestion and the development and maintenance of a healthy immune system. Enjoy the bounty of fresh, local produce available to you right now. In off seasons, buyer beware!

Healthiest wishes,

 

Kelli

www.bodybiotics.com

 

Resources:

  1. https://www.dirt-to-dinner.com/where-do-our-fruits-and-vegetables-come-from/
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/13/dining/fruit-vegetables-imports.html
  3. https://www.agcensus.usda.gov/Publications/2012/
  4. http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/VegeSumm/VegeSumm-02-04-2016.pdf
  5. http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-availability-(per-capita)-data-system/.aspx


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