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I don't think it's any real surprise that organic food sales have collapsed in recession. Most of those prepared to pay that little bit more when times are good because they claim the food is healthier no longer want healthier food it seems. Tesco say organic bread sales have fallen 31%; fruit has dropped 16.5% and vegetables by 10%. Organic meat fell by 39.5%, according to the CO-OP; chicken and poultry down 22.5% according to Morrison's. People can't afford to spend £9.99 on a chicken reared in Dorset in the worst downturn since the war.
Organic food, like recycling, is the latest moral crusade of the middle-class to distance themselves from the proletariat, if you ask me, an expensive moral fad, they say doing their bit to save the planet, I say posh people trying to be trendy. Saving the world is not cheap and organic producers are making a nice living out of it. The uppity are essentially being offered a way they think they can eat mass produced food without upsetting the animals, which is absurd. The animals are still going to be killed and just because you shop at Marks & Spencer's doesn't mean that chicken had a better life. But because the mark up is huge for the supermarkets its encouraged.
If you shop in supermarkets, expensive brands are always on the top shelves, making you feel superior when you purchase them, non brand names always near the bottom of the rack, the proles scraping around your ankles for Asda cornflakes. They are down low for a reason. The joke, of course, is always on the consumer when it comes to the cheaper own brands as they are nearly always made in the same factories as the brands, but on a different belt and machine. But people are obsessed with brands, buying stuff other people cant afford a way to make themselves feel more relevant and so rightfully ripped off in my opinion if they pay extra for Kellogg's, or indeed, organic produce.
To me organic food is just another brand aimed at the well healed. Waitrose, the bastion retailer of Middle England, only saw a 3.5% drop in their organic sales in 2009, by far the lowest decrease, the white-collar classes effectively circling the wagons and doing most of their organic shopping there now, reinforcing the feeling this is really about snobbery over health. I'm sure there are some hippies and veggies that genuinely fear those chemicals in pesticides that are used to kill insect so to help crops stay fresh being sprayed on their food but to most they are just paying more for what they think is the premium product.
But the biggest con is that organic food is rarely 100% organic, increasing pressure put on the 'Soil Association', the quango that markets organically grown stuff, by the supermarkets to declassify certain pesticides so the Tesco's and the rest can mass produce it so to make money.
The classification of a organically reared animal has changed dramatically in the last ten years, many effectively battery farmed still. The cost to let 10,000 chickens run around in a pen is astronomical and so even organic farmers can't afford that. They effectively have to use some conventional farming methods to cheat or they will go out of business competing against the bigger farms supplying the supermarkets with organic food. Read those organic labels carefully and you will see all is not as it seems. To meet organic demand the supermarkets need those chemicals and battery sheds to grow large volumes, and so skilfully lobbied to open loop-holes to use the very substances and methods that make people not want to buy non-organic in the first place. One in every seven pounds spent in the U.K goes to Tesco and they are powerful beasts. Organic became commercial and so profitable and so the honest small farms trying to grow natural will also be overrun by Tesco and the like in the end if they don't cheat. I don't blame the small farmers but they, too, got into organic farming to make money. I guarantee you very few would like a surprise inspection of their organic farms.
The biggest giggle came recently when Which Magazine revealed that organic food is no healthier for you than conventionally grown food, which, like the magazines name, should always be taken with an organic pinch of salt. Lobbyists on both sides want to undermine each other but I would suspect the crap sprayed on crops and injected in animals isn't that good for you in other ways. What's really happening is the bottled water syndrome, young impressionable women believing the adverts that organic and natural food and drink makes your skin shine and so you look younger and healthier. A bottle of Evian is really just tap water, but that the power of the brand, why it spells 'naïve' backwards. But we want to believe we can live longer and look better than our genes have already decided we live and so buy into the hype, be it bottled water or organic produced commercial food.
I think the proof is in the pudding with the collapse of organic sales that people are not prepared to keep buying organic food and save their money elsewhere, these purchases not about healthy living but some sort of statement on where we stand in the food chain, if you like. And if they were also honest they couldn't tell the difference. With GM test fields up and running again under Cameron it won't matter what we eat because once Monsanto gets it's modified gene into the food chain we will have to eat what they say. The Tory Minister appointed to the task to race GM crops forward under this government just so happens to part own a GM farming company with her partner. The supermarkets are going to get their way over all food issues and organic food will be no cleaner than normal food by the time the big agricultural companies get hold of the industry proper.
Years ago the word Organic just didn't exist, food was food, it was bought , it was cooked and it was eaten.
By the way im not Methuselah either!
But in hindsight a high percentage of food used to be grown in our own back gardens anyway and the choice of food was by no means as varied as it is today.
We had unpasteurised milk from the farm, we ate what was `in season` , so maybe we ate quite an amount of organic food.
Organic food wont automatically make you any healthier, it certainly might make you feel safer in the knowledge that you have eaten products that have been grown without the use of pesticides.
I have to admit that I don't buy organic, the cost is the main reason, but we do grow a fair amount of vegetables ourselves.
The taste has to be a consideration, some supermarket fruit and veg is tasteless. Brussel sprouts need a frost on them to bring out the flavour, but farmers just aren't in a position to wait for frost to harvest a crop, they need an income.
We now have everlasting carrots, you buy them and three weeks later they are still in A1 condition, whatever they have been treated with works well.
Just a couple of examples that have made me stop and think about the merits of organically produced fruit and vegetables.
If you take anything straight from the ground and eat it raw or cooked the taste is a hundred times better than if it has been transported by air or sea and reaches the supermarket a week later. The goods will more than likely have been sprayed or coated with a chemical to ensure that they get to their destination looking fresh and don't forget the air pollution that the goods are subjected to en route.
In the UK 31,000 tons of pesticide are sprayed on to farmland each year, the chemicals are used to kill pests and weeds but over 25% of non-organic fruit and veg that is sold carries the residue of this spraying. Of course there is a chain reaction here, the chemicals that are found on the fruit and vegetables are then passed on as each company produces its own goods using the non- organic food.
Intensive farming harms the soil, all but destroys natural hedgerows and does untold harm to wildlife.
Intensive farming is another matter, horrendously cruel!... and we are supposed to be a nation of animal lovers!
If organic food was affordable to all then I am sure that many of us would buy otherwise. But sadly the cost is too high. Lidl`s recently started to stock Free Range Chickens, beautiful, but triple the price of a battery hen and they sat on the shelves until they were reduced sufficiently.
I agree that it is very sad that we cant afford to buy organic, it would be far better for us all to know that what we were eating hadn't been sprayed to within an inch of its life.
If the supermarkets turned around tomorrow and said they were introducing an affordable organic range then I would be over the moon, but as we all know that wont happen.
So apart from eating what we grow and what friends provide us with when they have surplus fruit and vegetables, then we will have to make the very best of what we have.
But of course I would much prefer to eat food grown without the use of chemicals.
For breakfast in the morning I like to have either Tescos or Sainsburys Organic Cornflakes with semi-skimmed milk (organic sometimes and sometimes not). It tastes very good and pure/clean compared to other leading brands I think.
Because organic is more natural containing no pesticides, I find a good difference in taste between organic and non organic foods. It is better for me too as I have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) so eating more organic food helps to keep that at bay more.
I particularly however find Organic cornflakes to taste really really good compared with ordinary cornflakes. There is a fresher taste and you can actually taste the corn. The cornflakes look cleaner and purer when poured out in the bowl and tastes really good too.
There is no added sugar, salt or preservatives to hamper the taste of Organic cornflakes so I would highly recommend them even for the kids. They taste like ordinary cornflakes only better because they're organic.
I'm not 100% sure if Kellogs have an organic cornflakes brand but I'll sure try it if they do bring one out.
After having several lengthy discussions with friends online and off, it's debatable whether organic food is really worth it. It can all depend on your reasons for wanting to go organic. Do your reasons concern ethical issues, environmental, for taste reasons or even just for social reasons?
After a long debate we came to this reasoning.
* Ethical Reasons - Going organic can mean the animals (involved in producing that succulent piece of meat you see on your plate) will be treated in the most respectable way possible and that their life will be extinguished in the most painless and humane way.
* Environmental Reasons - Less chemicals are used and substances that are less harmful to the environment.
* Social Reasons - Like it or not, when you're in the supermarket people look more fondly upon others seen picking up free range eggs from the shelf rather than the supermarkets own, cheaper brand. Whether you let this affect you or if you have reasons against organic, such as the cost, then among certain mindsets, this is a reason to go organic.
* Price - Yes, you will pay at least a few pence more to have the organic alternative of a food product. Depending on how much you need to buy, this can be very costly if you're trying to make all the items on your shopping list organic and free range.
* Convenience - Even with the efforts of Jamie Oliver's great TV program on food issues etc it is still less convenient to get food that's organic. Not everything you want down the corner shop will be available and not all of what you want organic will even be down your major supermarket. The convenience stores just can't have stock large enough or afford the extra costs associated with stocking organic food.
You'll have more luck down a major supermarket but as the newspapers said recently in regards to free range eggs being out of stock, a lot of the time organic food is unavailable as demand outweighs supply.
* Taste - It's only true depending on where you get it from or what the food is, but sometimes organic food just doesn't taste as nice, or it can take some getting used to! Many have reported that some, more expensive burgers don't taste as nice or that organic bread tastes like cardboard!
Whether you buy into having organic food, free range eggs or locally produced, fresh meat there is a solution. They're springing up in different regions all over the UK and I've recently found one I can regularly use. What is it? In Devon it's called Tor To Tor Meat Delivery Service. It's a local butcher and food supplier on Dartmoor that hand rears its animals on the rocky hills of Dartmoor, butchers them to your very own requirements and delivers them straight to your door. They're very reasonably priced, convenient since you don't even have to leave your house, and so far, everything I've ordered has tasted great!
~~ Organically Grown Food is More Nutritious ~~
There has been considerable growth in the organic food industry in recent years. This is despite sophisticated and well-funded corporate attacks by agribusiness and the biotechnology giants who see the organic revolution as major threat. This is often supported in Britain by right wing propaganda publications such as the Daily Telegraph. There is a lot of disinformation in the media that presents a view that buying organic is a waste of time, or that it's unsustainable, or that there is no difference in the taste of organic food in comparison to non-organic produce.
The argument that food production has increased enormously because of the use of pesticides is no longer as strong as it was. A lot of official data has shown an alarming decline in mineral levels in fruit and vegetables over the past half-century. Even though the typical Western diet is more varied now than ever before, nutrient deficiencies are common and human health is declining as a result.
There is no doubt in my mind that fruits and vegetables are more nutritious when grown organically and the improvement in taste is more than obvious. You can even detect the difference between something as bland as a glass of organic milk when compared to some non-organic milk. Organic crops are not only higher in vitamin C and essential minerals but also higher in special compounds which protect plants from pests and disease. These are also often beneficial in the treatment of cancer.
~~ Dead Lands ~~
When chemical pesticides and fertilizers are distributed on farm land, you not only kill unwanted pests, you kill the natural predators of your pests as well as many of the organisms that live in the soil such as earthworms, small insects, bacteria and fungi that decompose organic matter, make nutrients available to plants and build soil structure. This in time kills the soil biology producing a dead soil with very little organic matter, which makes it difficult to support plant growth. The soil structure breaks down and the roots of crops don't get enough oxygen, which means they can't grow many micro root hairs and that this causes the efficiency of taking up nutrients to diminish. What you end up with is dead land.
Over the last thirty years, intensive farming in the UK has led to dramatic erosion of the soil, a fall of up to 70% of wild birds in some areas, the destruction of ancient hedgerows, and the near extinction of some of the most beautiful species of butterflies, frogs, grass-snakes and wild mammals. The only ones who have benefited are the large farm monopolies, the chemical and pesticide companies, and the shareholders.
~~ Living Soil ~~
There is a big difference in the look, feel and smell of soil from a chemical-intensive field as compared to living soil from an organic field. Soil from an organic field often smells like a forest floor, it is usually moister and hold's together, whereas soil treated with chemical sprays often smells burned, is dry, brittle and crumbly, doesn't hold together well and is easily washed away by wind and water. Chemically treated soils make a significant contribution to soil erosion because the top soil is never properly replaced. Furthermore, organic soil holds moisture better and crops tend to thrive better during droughts. This is especially significant as global warming is drying out soils and destabilizing agriculture.
~~ Pest Control ~~
The practice of many agribusinesses to do mono-cropping - planting just one crop species over a large area - is an invitation to the kind of insect pests that are specialized in that crop. This has made it convenient to produce powerful pesticides that are targeted at such pests. However, the diversity of crops and resulting higher beneficial insect populations on organic farms mean that organic farms tend to be much more resilient over the long term with less severe losses. Furthermore, when there are no natural predators, there are pest outbreaks that destroy crops when pests develop a resistance to the pesticides. Because such pests become resistant, we use many times more pesticide per acre as we did 40 or 50 years ago, but we lose double the amount of crops. According to one statistic in from the World Watch Institute, in 1935, before people were using pesticides, 30 percent of crops were lost to pests. Today it's nearly 40 percent.
Controlling pests naturally can be a very sophisticated approach that can take a few years to develop because you have to attract insect diversity to eat the pest insects. Hedgerows can attract the natural predators of insects as they act as a shady refuge with wild vegetation, trees, bushes and flowering plants where they can get alternative sources of food such as nectar from flowers and pollen. Piles of rocks also provide a haven for insects to crawl under. If you don't have a hedgerow, the population of natural predators will drop dramatically. Research shows that pest problems are less severe the closer you get to the hedgerow and more severe the farther away from the hedgerow.
~~ Cuba ~~
A good example of success in organic food production is in Cuba. Cuba's transition to organic agriculture was something that was rather forced upon them. The embargo imposed by the United States and the loss of their trading partners after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989 meant that pesticide and fertilizer availability dropped by 80 percent. Fortunately, Cuba was a country rich in researchers and in the early 1980s many Cuban agricultural researchers had a chance to try out their unused research on organic methods of farming. There are now a rich variety of agricultural research services that are the backbone of Cuba's transition to organic agriculture.
~~ Unhealthy Consumer Lifestyle ~~
As consumers we have to take some of the blame. We have collaborated for decades in a cheap food policy that has allowed us to spend a disproportionate part of our incomes on luxury items rather than clean, healthy food. A nice house, a car, holidays and entertainment have all been given much higher priority than pure food.
~~ Some Reasons for Going Organic ~~
* You will avoid a cocktail of poisonous chemicals. The average conventionally-grown apple has 20-30 artificial poisons on its skin, even after rinsing.
* Fresh organic produce contains on average 50% more vitamins, minerals, enzymes and other micro-nutrients than intensively farmed produce.
* Intensively-reared dairy cows and farm animals are fed a dangerous cocktail of anti-biotics, growth promoting drugs, anti-parasite drugs and many other medicines on a daily basis, whether they have an illness or not. These drugs are passed directly onto the consumers of their dairy produce or meat.
* Organic farms support and nurture a diversity of wildlife.
* If you think organic food is more expensive than intensively farmed foods, remember that we pay for conventional foods through our taxes. A billion of pounds every year is spent on cleaning up the mess that agro-chemicals make to our natural water supply.
* Intensive farming can seriously damage farm workers' health. There are much higher instances of cancer, respiratory problems and other major diseases in farm workers from non-organic farms. This is particularly true in developing countries, and for agrochemical farms growing cotton.
~~ Long Live the Organic Revolution! ~~
There is simply no real reason why there cannot be a full transition to organic food production in the UK. As with renewable energy the technology and expertise exists to do it, all that is lacking as usual is the political will to kick big business interests where it hurts. Fruit and vegetables are more nutritious when farmers work in harmony with nature rather than setting out to conquer it.