Does Farm Worker Health Vary Between Localised And Globalised Food Supply Systems?
Edwards, Rhiannon T
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Significant environmental benefits are claimed for local food systems, but these biophysical indicators are increasingly recognised as inadequate descriptors of supply chain ethics. Social factors such as health are also important indicators of good practice, and are recognised by the organic and local food movements as important to the development of rounded sustainable agricultural practices. This study compared the self-reported health status of farm workers in the United Kingdom, Spain, Kenya and Uganda who were supplying distant markets with fresh vegetables. Workers on Kenyan export horticulture farms reported significantly higher levels of physical health than did Kenyan non-export farm workers and workers in the other study countries. Mean health levels for farm workers in the United Kingdom were significantly lower than relevant population norms, indicating widespread levels of poor health amongst these workers. These results suggest that globalized supply chains can provide social benefits to workers, while local food systems do not always provide desirable social outcomes. The causal mechanisms of these observations probably relate more to the social conditions of workers than directly to income.