Attack on organics missed the mark

Date Published: 08/05/2008

An apparent examination of the ‘myths’ of organic food and farming in The Independent newspaper failed to grasp the realities of the sector, a leading organic body has claimed.

Organic Farmers & Growers' chief executive, Richard Jacobs
Organic Farmers & Growers' chief executive, Richard Jacobs

Organic Farmers & Growers, one of the largest certifiers of organic production and processing in the UK, said the piece (1 May, 2008) by ‘environmental expert’ Rob Johnston failed to acknowledge the key benefits of organic farming and was based on old and predictable criticisms, which have been addressed many times.

OF&G Chief Executive, Richard Jacobs, said: “When your argument for organic farming not being better for the environment is based on the statement that ‘organically reared cows burp twice as much methane as conventionally reared cattle’ I think it’s clear you still have some work to do on your position!

“The Government has stated its belief that organic farming has clear environmental benefits in terms of pollution, wildlife, chemical use, lower carbon dioxide and more.

“One of the key benefits of the work done by organic farmers is aimed at locking nutrients into the soil, not depleting them and then making up for it with chemical inputs. And many studies have shown significant improvements in wildlife habitats on organic farms. I could go on and on.”

Richard said many of the points in the article were highly selective and failed to acknowledge the fact that organic producers do not claim not to use pesticides. They are, however, able to say that they only have controlled access to a handful of elements of either natural origin or simple compounds, none of which transfer themselves to the food. This in contrast to over 300 approved chemicals used in non-organic production.

The article also failed to acknowledge the unparalleled assurance provided by the strong regulation of organic food and farming, ensuring traceability of produce from the field to the shop or restaurant.

Richard added: “From time to time organics is faced with such pieces in the media. Perhaps they sell newspapers. Healthy debate is always good, but we would always say that shoppers should decide for themselves if they prefer a system that doesn’t lean on the chemical industry, supports wildlife, is based on excellent husbandry and management and which guarantees the kind of life for animals that many people now demand to see.

“I know what I prefer to feed my children…”