The Soil Association have been toying with the idea of removing organic certification from food flown in from countries like Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia on the grounds that freighting food overseas damages the environment. Airfreighted food has too high a carbon foorprint, runs the argument.
True, it’s important to consider food miles when you’re buying your groceries. But I don’t think the Soil Association’s plan makes any sense… worse, it’ll wreak havoc.
1. It’s unfair. Having persuaded African farmers to meet organic standards, they’re now moving the goalposts. How much hardship would that cause?
2. If you want to decrease the world’s carbon footprint you have to look at global solutions, not just local ones. Population growth is a factor of poverty; the only way we’re going to stabalise the world’s population is by leveling the playing fields and allowing Kenyan farmers like Charles Kimani, featured in this Guardian article, to make a living, not by continuing to shut him out of global fair trade.
3. As Charles Kimani asks, “Who emits more greenhouse gasses? A Kenyan or a Briton?” African farmers already have to cope with European and American food tariffs without the Soil Association tipping the odds even further against them. And yet it’s African farmers who are facing the brunt of warming as weather paterns change. How fair is that?
4. Mixing the air miles issue with the organic issue makes things more confusing not less. The Soil Association provide a great service certifying food. I know when I eat something labelled organic that it should be grown under safe, chemical-free conditions. That’s what I want them to do for me. I’m all for air mile labelling too to let me make an informed decision on whether I choose to buy Kenyan beans or not, but I don’t want the Soil Association making that decision for me.
Sorry. Gets off high horse.
Feel free to tell me why I’ve got this wrong.
Photo of a farmer from Togo kindly supplied by Vredeseilanden, a Belgian NGO that works developing small-scale sustainable agriculture projects in Africa.