Fudge or compromise over organic?

Today’s news from the Soil Association doesn’t seem to have won much support. The organisation responsible for ensuring that food labelled “organic” meets strict standards has decided that air-freighted produce must also achieve ethical standards too.
The Soil Assiociation’s statement says that, in future, air freighted organic food will have to meet it’s own Ethical Trade standards or the Fairtrade Foundation’s standards .
Anna Bradley, chair of the Soil Association’s Standards Board explained: “It is neither sustainable nor responsible to encourage poorer farmers to be reliant on air freight, but we recognise that building alternative markets that offer the same social and economic benefits as organic exports will take time. Therefore, the Soil Association will be doing all it can to encourage farmers in developing countries to create and build organic markets that do not depend on air freight.”
But according, to the Farmer’s Guardian , the announcement has angered Government officials who say a limit on air-freighted organic produce could harm developing world markets.
And Nigel Jenney, ceo of the Fresh Produce Consortium, also slammed the proposals. He said: “It is unfortunate that the SA has chosen to ignore the independent data provided by the industry, and has proceeded to promote the concept of airfreighting produce as an emotive issue. The produce industry as a whole accounts for no more than three per cent of the UK’s carbon footprint, so perhaps the SA should focus its attention on other organic sectors with a much larger footprint. Most airfreighted produce is flown on passenger airlines, which would fly regardless of their cargo.
Even The Guardian seems to be in no doubt that the SA’s proposal isn’t strong enough. “Fudge. Intelligent fudge, sincere fudge – but fudge all the same” it decides in a leader column.
It’s actually hard to spot the most just argument here. The hard fact is that the sort of people who buy organic food believing that they’re doing their bit towards a healthier, more sustainable future are the exact same people who want to help the poorest farmers in the world.
Those two conflicting aspirations will never be successfully converged by Government committees, watchdogs or any other bodies. Only consumers will ultimately make that choice with the pound in their pocket.


One thought on “Fudge or compromise over organic?

  1. All the arguments about this issue have focused on whether it is right to air freight food.
    In fact, the argument is about what information shoppers are given. The Organic label should simply show, as clearly as possible, how food has been grown.
    By building opinions about the relative worthiness of trade-led development and reducing greenhouse gas emissions into the Organic criteria, the Soil Association will make it more difficult for shoppers to express their own opinions.


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