The Walmart Connection & Sustainability

As usual, today’s top story on food isn’t in the happy Features or Lifestyle sections of newspapers, but instead is in the Business section.

Major news, really: “Walmart wants to Buy More Local Produce.”  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/15/business/15walmart.html?_r=1&ref=business

For example: “In the United States, Wal-Mart plans to double the percentage of locally grown produce it sells to 9 percent. Wal-Mart defines local produce as that grown and sold in the same state.  Still, the program is far less ambitious than in some other countries — in Canada, for instance, Wal-Mart expects to buy 30 percent of its produce locally by the end of 2013, and, when local produce is available, increase that to 100 percent.”

The piece quotes top thinkers and advocates, like Michelle Mauthe Harvey of the Envoronmental Defense Fund, “who worked with Walmart on the goals,” and praises the changes.

Me?  I’m wonderin’, just wonderin’.

I see the good in all this, but wonder: Once Walmart, the world’s largest grocer, corners the market on local as well as global produce, what changes will it as a corporation be able to enact both in response to consumer demands as well as to shape consumer perceptions?

I mean, what if consumers want cheaper, bigger, genetically altered produce?  Will Walmart dictate terms to the farmers?

And what if the farm workers want to expand collective bargaining and unions?  Will Walmart be able to step in and say nyahh or its equivalent?

What if the corporation sees an opportunity to sell a cheaper product to a hungry consumer?

But, hey, it’ll all be local, right?

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