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At last, a realistic assessment of organics

Date Published: 22/01/2009

We’ve been a bit peeved with The Times newspaper around here lately. It was this particular newspaper that, at Christmas, published a dubious and un-checked story claiming that organic farmers had asked for a “holiday” from the organic standards, or to “bend the rules”.

We shouted loudly at the time that this was not the case and explained the truth of the matter. It’s fair to say the smoke was caused by fire in this case, but the signals were badly distorted.

Now (admittedly a bit belatedly and in a circuitous way via Twitter) we’ve stumbled across this blog post by Rachel Johnson, also in The Times.

Beginning reading it gives you the sense that it’s just going to be another commentator expressing their disappointment, based on not knowing all the facts. However, if you keep reading you realise that Ms Johnson is injecting a dose of the kind of realistic common sense that we sometimes think we must have the monopoly on here at OF&G towers (trust me, we know we don’t have that monopoly, but occasionally it feels like it!).

For instance, she says:

“Look at it this way: a new row over organic certification should actually help suspicious consumers better to understand the difference between those who slave year-round to produce good food without damaging the environment and the wily producers who hijack the word (as they did “green”) to try to sell us some pretty borderline or questionable tat.”

So, yes. Education of consumers. Something we’re always desperate to achieve, because when people really understand what organic means and stands for they will know why they should support it.


“The current debate is a sign of how well regulated and passionate the sector has become. Of course, everyone understands that in a recession people are going to want cheaper food: that’s why the organic lobby has acknowledged that conventional methods have their place.”

While that’s an excellent point, and we’re thrilled to see the recognition that this is a very well policed system, we’re not convinced that all of the ‘organic lobby’ has acknowledged the place of non-organic farming. We have, and we know others who have. But no, not everyone.

All-in-all a very well-balanced, thoughtful and, above all, realistic piece. Thank you, Ms Johnson.