Friday, July 21, 2006

Organic news

I don't usually get to read much of what is printed in the papers (when we do buy the papers), but there has been some interesting 'organic news' this last week or so.

I was delighted to read one journalist's view on Why we should buy organic milk. Jane Wheatley says 'It makes me furious to see two litres selling for the “bargain” price of 65p in my local corner shop.'

'It’s not a bargain at all; it comes at a terrible cost to farmers and to the cows that are endlessly bred, pumped, primed and medicated for higher yields in an effort to reduce the gap between the price the farmer gets for his milk — around 18p a litre — and what it costs to produce it — about 21p. '

We have been very blessed in being able to have bottled organic milk delivered to us once a week. Sadly our fridge can only take so many standing bottles and we need to supplement these most weeks with store-bought organic milk. But we do buy it from the supermarket chain that this report highlights as paying farmers a premium compared to other middle-men.

Another item of interest which I read in the papers but could not find online, but has since been reproduced here is about how ethical food stores are growing on shoppers. Clearly there is a growing interest in 'ethical consumerism' and someone in America (John Mackey) has capitalized on it, suggesting that there is no real contradiction between profits and ethics. His Whole Foods chain is about to open a store in Kensington.

I am always a bit wary of big players in the 'ethical' sector and I shall have to watch this closely. It will be tragic if such stores (with their fiscal muscle and therefore buying power) were to edge out smaller stores which have first opened up the 'ethical market'. On the other hand, such big players with their big marketing budgets can do much to further the cause of smaller ethical stores. We shall see.

What is exceptionally good news for me is that this report also suggests that 'the ethical shopping trend is growing so fast that soon it will apply as much to toothpaste, soap and tea towels as it does to organic milk, free-range eggs and chicken and fair trade coffee and chocolate'. If you have -- like me -- worked on the factory floor (in not one, but two garment factories), any progress towards the ethical and fair trade route as the only acceptable standard is a welcome change.

Finally, there is more good news about Indian farmers who go back to basics. Farmer suicide in India is common because small-hold farmers borrow money to buy seed, and if this is GM seed, they end up having to borrow even more money to buy fertilizers and pesticides. The only people who profit are the big international GM seed producers and the middle-men who act as traders and money-lenders.

When the harvests fail, as they often do, farmers take their own lives.

This report is another bit of evidence to support the advantages of returning to organic agriculture where farmers can make use of local knowledge and local biodiversity to control pests and fertilize the ground without the added eco-burden of long-distance transport.

But organic agriculture is only profitable if there IS a demand for organic produce.

We, as consumers, have a choice.

Back to Organic-Ally.

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