Hot on the heals of organic milk going off, the organic food industry has admitted that it cannot meet demand without imports and the additional food miles they generate. The crisis is so deep that Soil Association director Patrick Holden has warned a commitment to organic should not be put before sustainable farming or encourage industrialisation.
But he may be too late: organic prawns are intensively farmed in Indonesia and air freighted 7,278 miles; organic apples may travel 10,000 miles from New Zealand; organic beef may travel 7,000 miles or more. An air passenger flying 10,000 miles creates 3.1 tonnes of carbon dioxide, almost as much as an average UK household creates in a year from the use of electricity.
And still, despite sales in 2005 of £1.6 billion in the UK and £16.7 billion worldwide, the organic food industry has failed to find the money to fund credible research that might suggest organic food is better for us or the environment… it probably isn’t.
The popular belief that organic food is the greenest food you can buy is looking decidedly shaky, but with luck localism will usurp organic as the path to green consumerism: this season local is the new organic.