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We're not blurring our principles on organic food

by 5m Editor
17 October 2006, at 1:04pm

UK - Usually, the Soil Association is criticised for setting unrealistically high standards for organic farming and food, says Peter Melchett in a letter. So it was a surprise to read the Guardian's leader column alleging that we were "diluting standards to keep in with the supermarkets" (Organic food row: Green gauges, October 7).

We can join with the Guardian in celebrating the growth of public support for organic food and farming, and also agree that "much of what we eat is still produced at too high a cost in order to be sold at too low a price".

We don't dispute that the organic sector faces unhelpful moves from some supermarkets - pushing sales by offering customers organic food as "cheaply" as possible, and potentially forcing organic farmers on to the same treadmill as their non-organic counterparts.

Our food culture needs changing so that "cheap" generally means "nasty", and definitely inferior, as with any other product. Good quality organic food is within everyone's price range if people eat a diet based on unprocessed, seasonal and local food with less (but better-quality) meat.

In addition to campaigning for sustainable food production, we have a not-for-profit commercial arm that inspects and licenses organic farms and businesses. The Guardian recycled our critics' claims that "the association's certification of very large poultry flocks seems at odds with biodiversity and animal welfare". However, uniquely among certifying bodies, our public supporters are consulted over our standards, ensuring an essential check on any possible conflicts between commercial and public interests.

Source: The Guardian

5m Editor