Adventures in Ethical Consumerism

Friday, March 11, 2005

Organic news

A couple of interesting stories from

This one is almost comical. It describes how the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld two complaints against the Soil Association, Britain's most vocal advocate of organic farming:

[T]he ASA upheld complaints on two claims in a leaflet made by the Soil Association last year: that "organic farming produces healthy food" and that it is "more humane to animals".

ASA said the claims could not be substantiated scientifically.

Incredible! This reminds me of the time I heard Alex Ferguson, MSP (Con), stand up in the Scottish Parliament and state that he would not be supporting a bill in favour of more rural abbatoirs because, though he agreed with everything else in the bill, he could not bring himself to accept the notion that transporting animals across the country on the backs of lorries was stressful to them.

There can be no doubt about what is stressful to animals. It can easily be measured by scientists and frequently is. It is different for people to say they simply don't care. That is something you rarely hear. Such people usually try to hide behind claims that things to do with animal welfare are 'not scientifically proven'. The Soil Association knows this. From the BBC:

The Soil Association told the BBC it still thinks organic food is healthier.

It says it has recently submitted new evidence to the ASA which means it can now legitimately state that no other food has higher amounts of beneficial minerals and vitamins.

And it argues no other system of farming has higher levels of animal welfare standards.

What else are they supposed to do? Throw a party for the cows and have them photographed by the press with party hats on their heads? Take the ASA down to the local industialised farm and give them a guided tour?

The other story from is this one, about the impending growth of organic farming in Eastern Europe. I suppose we can expect increased availability of organic food to cause a corresponding drop in prices, which would be heartily welcomed.

But we should not lose sight of the fact that the best kind of food - for people, animals and the Earth - is both organic and locally-produced. I'd rather see Eastern Europe's growth in organic farming reflected in an increasing appetite for it among local people than see it driven west in diesel-burning haulage trucks.


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