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Food travels further nowadays because of the centralization of production and distribution systems, but another reason for moving food around is cheap labor.

A significant volume of Washington pears are exported to Thailand, where they are packaged in four-ounce individual-serving-size cups and shipped back to the United States by Dole Food Company, having made a round trip of over 15,000 miles.

According to Jay Grandy, manager of the Washington-Oregon Canning Pear Association, between November 2004 and May 2005, Thailand was shipping on average 12 million four-ounce servings per month, or about 5 percent of total canned pear consumption in the United States.

Even though the labor may be cheaper in Thailand, David Granatstein, sustainable agriculture specialist with Washington State University, wonders whether the transportation issues will make such practices unsustainable in the long term.

The volume of processed pears imported into the United States continues to increase, although more recently, Del Monte Foods Company has been importing single-serving packs of pears that are packed in China using Chinese pears rather than U.S. pears. Snokist Growers of Yakima, Washington, has begun packing diced pears in the single-serving packs in Washington, using local fruit.