Thursday, 15 March 2018

Offsetting Risk: Organic Food, Pollution and the Transgression of Spatial Boundaries

Original Article Authors Giovanni Orlando First published: 14 March 2018Full publication history DOI: 10.1111/cuag.12105 View/save citation Cited by (CrossRef): 0 articles Check for updates Giovanni Orlando trained in anthropology (Goldsmiths) and human ecology (UCL) and specializes in the study of alternative food networks, particularly the production-consumption of organic food. His doctoral project looked at ethical foods in Western Sicily (Italy), integrating the literatures on moral economy and sustainability. His current project is entitled: “The Value of Alternative Food Networks after the Crisis: An Italian Case Study.” Abstract This article analyses the reasons given by some inhabitants of Palermo, a city in southern Italy, to explain their consumption of organic foods. It does so to uncover the role played by perceptions of the ubiquity of pollution in the construction of contemporary culinary anxieties. The article shows that some Palermitans compared organic to conventional foods on the basis of notions of healthiness, choosing the former to avoid ingesting harmful substances. This is in line with a popular interpretation of organic food consumption as a means to avoid risks originating in agriculture and the food processing industry. However, concerns about food quality were not the sole motivation offered by research participants. Eating organics was also seen as a way to mitigate risks deriving from the local urban environment. While this double risk burden reflects views of pollution that are typical of contemporary environmental discourse, participants’ references to urban settings in their discussions of organic food are an aspect that is not usually addressed in analyses of this form of consumption. The article suggests therefore that ideas about the spatial properties of pollution play an important role in explaining people's culinary anxieties and the attractiveness of organics, the consumption of which is seen as capable of offsetting contamination from a diverse array of (mostly local) factors.