According to today’s Telegraph, the crowd which certifies which food can be labeled “organic” is considering whether food which is currently labeled “organic” but which is flown into Britain could lose its organic status.
Their stated motivation is simple: they want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from flights.
That seems admirable, but – if that’s the motivation – then they’re being idiots.
Idiots! The organic movement has built a brand and managed to change the way people think about food around the world. If “food miles” is their real issue then attack the issue, don’t muddy their brand. Don’t be dishonest about it either.
All that changing the definition of organic will do is remove any financial motivation for overseas farmers who currently export to the UK to grow food to organic standards. If there is no market for them, then there is no motivation. So the supply of organic food in the UK will shrink and prices will go up accordingly. Not forgetting that it costs much more to produce food in the UK, which is why it’s financially viable to import so much food.
So prices will go up and less people will eat organic food because many people will do the math and think it is not worth it.
In fact, having written that last sentence .. I wonder if I’m being naive … is this just a cunning ploy to reduce competition in their market niche? Is “It’s not organic if it is from overseas” really just a “Buy British” message dressed up as “save the planet”?
Anyway. I hope they don’t do it because it’ll muddy the meaning of good name of the organic concept, which can’t be a good thing.
Another option – which is mentioned in the article – is that they may propose labeling food with the “food miles” instead. That’s a good idea … sort of. My bag of Israeli organic beans will tell me how many miles it flew to get to me. I already know that Israel is a long way away from here but the number of miles will make it more concrete.
I just hope that they’re honest about that too. If my bag of organic beans from Israel was the only passenger on the flight and used all that fuel then I’d like to know that … but I’d also like to know the size of the aircraft too. If it was one packet of 20,000 then I’d like to know that too. The number of miles it has flown is irrelevant without all of the facts.
BTW: There’re a number of conflicts here, none of which is simple. I don’t want to ruin the environment … but I also want to be able to afford good quality, healthy food – my doctor tells me it is good for me. Nor do I want to rob overseas farm workers of their jobs. Nor do I want to support big supermarkets over local producers. None of it’s simple, but let’s be honest about the conflicts.