An Orgy of Organic Food

It's the Soil Association Organic Fortnight—that means two weeks of non-stop activities around the country, in celebration of organic food. It kicked off on Saturday with the Food Festival in Bristol; a huge indoor and outdoor food market selling every conceivable organic offering under the sun, along with talks, tastings and theatre. The Soil Association Annual Organic Food Awards, given to the best organic food producers in the UK, were presented as part of the festivities. The trophy went to Abbey Home Farm in Gloucestershire. The gold medal went to a small group of dedicated organic gardeners who worked with their local community to find land to grow vegetables, organised training and cooking classes, and received funding for ten schools to set up their own kitchen gardens for the children.

The British are committed to organic—sales of organic produce in the UK were up 30% this past year and worth £1.6bn. Two thirds of all shoppers now buy some organic food. It is worth noting that half of shoppers in the most disadvantaged socio-economic groups now buy some organic produce. All of the leading supermarkets have expanded their range of organic foods—their sales accounted for £1.2bn of the total market. The growth of box schemes, supplying local produce to people's homes, have grown in popularity so much that supermarkets are now selling their own versions of them.
But all is not perfect. According to Patrick Holden, Director of the Soil Association, "success makes us vulnerable to putting short-term profits before principles". In the United States, there has been pressure by lobbyists to lower the definition of organic so that standards become "organic-lite". Supermarkets, in their rush to capture the organic market, are trampling small organic producers. They have been pressuring small suppliers to switch their production to the supermarkets' own label. The stores are having difficulty in meeting demand; organic meat is in short supply and there are fears that there will be insufficient organic milk in the winter. :: Soil Association via :: The Independent

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