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Organic Food Figures Fall

Sep 11, 2008
The potential benefits of organic farming practices have long been lauded by environmentalists. With fossil fuels running out, the practices of non-organic farming have come under increased scrutiny. For one example, it is dubious whether using fertilisers - the production of which causes CO2 emissions - on crops whose only purpose is to be fed to cows for milk is really a sensible act, and organic milk is now standard in our supermarkets.

The benefits of organic food on the health are hotly disputed and controversial, and many shoppers are now uncertain whether or not paying that extra amount for an organic carrot amounts to a health-style choice. What is certain is that organic farming is a massive step in reducing carbon emissions, and is therefore a massively important area to address in the struggle to halt global warming and the climate change that it creates.

Farming takes up vast amounts of many countries total land, yet the role that farming plays in emissions seldom dominates environmental discourse. We hear much about heavy industry, transportation and the development of renewable sources of energy, but not that much at all about the fact that the journey of a food stuff from field to fork - or pasture to plate, if you are omnivorously inclined - is one that sees emissions shed at many different stages. The potential power that switching to organic farming has for the environment is staggering - it has been calculated that if 10,000 small to medium sized farms in the US converted to organic production then the soil would be able to store enough carbon to offset 1,174,400 cars. Switching soyabean and corn production to organic would be a move that would sequester the carbon for the country to meet 73% of its Kyoto targets.

However, despite all these potential pluses the Guardian newspaper has, in a studyconducted for them by market researchers TNS, found that sales of organic products have slipped off from their ledge of 100 million a month earlier this year to a less lofty 81 million in the last four weeks.

The Guardian analysis attributed the drop off to the sharpening pinch of the credit crunch and the gathering clouds of recession. Even though the fall off is recent, many farmers are switching from organic to non-organic practices, as they fear that the more expensive organic methods will not be partnered to future consumer demand.

Shifts in consumer attitude are highly vulnerable to increased prices, as the reality of our budgets is slipping away from our exalted principles. Even though we still pay a far smaller percentage of our wages on food than we did in the 1970's, this report suggests that many shoppers view organic products as a luxury rather than as a long standing alternative to non-organic products. Clearly, green rhetoric is going to be tougher and tougher to live up to as wallets feel lighter, but maybe some people will see it as a challenge, and everybody likes a challenge, don't they?
About the Author
Martin Gavin is a writer for ecoswitch
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