Don't say "organic" say "sustainable"

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Don't say "organic" say "sustainable"

Postby alan refail » Mon Oct 25, 2010 6:58 am

Patrick Holden seeks new language to boost organic food sales :wink:

http://www.farmersguardian.com/home/liv ... 53.article
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Re: Don't say "organic" say "sustainable"

Postby Johnboy » Mon Oct 25, 2010 7:14 am

Hi Alan,
I post the 4 comments that are below the website you have posted;

countryman | 22 October 2010 7:12 am

if you want to improve your image,stop telling lies about organic food. You have already been told to stop lieing by the Advertising Standards Authority. Tell the truth to the general public.Tell them that you do use anti-biotics .Tell them that you do use chemical sprays. Tell them you source feed from non-organic sources - all within SA rules that the public never reads. But you wont because you are making to much money. The reason why organic sales have plummeted is because you have been found out.

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Anonymous | 22 October 2010 10:18 am

Organic farming is not sustainable. In principle it is, but world population is far to large to allow it to be. The yields are lower meaning that a greater proportion of land is needed to produce the same amount of food compared with conventional farming. A large amount of fossil fuel is also still consumed during the production of organic farming through processes such as flaming. Personally, I see 'organic' farming as a bit of a con.

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Fresh Origins | 22 October 2010 3:40 pm

Actually organic farming has already proven to be unsustainable. Just a few generations ago, most farming was organic. Organic farming with its low yields, poor quality, and major crop losses is a bad use of valuable resources and could not be sustained over the long run. That is why today, despite the hype, over 99% of farming in North America is no longer organic*. Today we have to most abundant and highest quality fruits and vegetables in our history. Our average life expectancy has risen dramatically from the old days of organic farming.

*While U.S. organic crop acres accounts for less than one percent of total crop acreage, much of these organic acres are rangeland and pasture for cattle, and does not actually produce any edible crops.

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Nic Lampkin | 23 October 2010 9:34 pm

Actually there is substantial research evidence that organic farming brings environmental sustainability benefits, which is why it is supported as an agri-environmental scheme in Europe and the United States. However, no form of agriculture is perfectly sustainable and all have room for improvement. So far, organic remains the only serious approach to agricultural sustainability that is legally defined both in Europe and North America. (and yes, the regulations are published!)
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It really seems that there are more people out there that have very similar views with regards to the Soil Association as myself.
I am glad to hear that Patrick Holden has retired but I do not know, or for that matter really care, who has replaced him!
Having made a dirty word out of Organic he now wants to sully the word sustainable.
JB.
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Re: Don't say "organic" say "sustainable"

Postby Nature's Babe » Mon Oct 25, 2010 8:10 am

I agree that sustainability is important and not all organic is sustainable,
eg some imported organics, but there are some ethical organic producers working with universities on sustainability and the answers are not always the immediastely obvious. both organic and non - organic will need to change and consider more sustainable ways to progress with oil now on the decline and increasingly expensive and to mitigate the effects of global warming. Unfortunately we are not getting firm leadership on the political front. Things are not always so black and white. I believe its something we all need to take personal responsibility for, as our politicians are not setting an example.
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Re: Don't say "organic" say "sustainable"

Postby Johnboy » Mon Oct 25, 2010 9:29 am

Hi NB,
You are certainly correct when you say that sustainability is something we all have to work towards. 'We all' are two very small words but that means that Organic and Conventional must work together and it must be a combination of many factors including Genetic Modification.
Now, Conventional and GM work hand in hand and the only snake in the woodpile are the Organic Faction who have their own agenda and are never going to co-operate with anybody. It is their dogmatic approach to
sustainability which will cause an unsustainable situation. You quite rightly say that reserves of oil are now on a downward spiral and further to your comments the use of fossil fuels need to be preserved as long as humanly possible. The use of land must be to the absolute maximum and this is where Organics starts to fall apart. Sustainability means getting the best
possible return from a finite resource LAND. I am aware of your philosophy regarding the use of land and in an ideal situation I probably would be with you on this subject however I feel that Organics has had it's day commercially because better use of the land it occupies can be found.
We have a growing population and Organics seem to be going the wrong way which is to occupy more land for a poorer return. Some very hard thinking must be done by those who advocate that everything should be Organic because it means that in the end somebody in this country is going to go to bed starving. Dogma does not feed a nation it caters only for the better off people who can afford the high prices. Patrick Holden doesn't seem to understand why Organics is faltering but it is his policies that have caused it. He has been so sure of himself over the years that he has never had to sit back and think. Now that he has retired we are in receipt of his first published thoughts and the conclusion he has come to is what any sensible person could have advised him and indeed have over the years. He has had his head stuck in the sand like an Ostrich for many years!
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Re: Don't say "organic" say "sustainable"

Postby Nature's Babe » Mon Oct 25, 2010 10:06 am

It is not all black and white Johnboy and many orgaanics are doing their utmost towards sustainability, all systems have been guilty of causing problems in the past and it is time to drop prejudice and work towards a sustainable future for business and individuals and government. Organics is not just for the wealthy, many box schemes are under supermartlet prices now and we all have a choice to grow organically if we wish. There is a hell of a lot of waste with conventional industrial farming before it even gets to the supermarkets, with whole fields being ploughed back in if they don't reach the supermarkets required standards and that is a waste of scarce rescources.

http://www.riverfordenvironment.co.uk/default.aspx
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Re: Don't say "organic" say "sustainable"

Postby Johnboy » Mon Oct 25, 2010 1:21 pm

Hi NB,
There is an awful lot of Organic produce that should be ploughed in but gets onto the market because it is "Organic" and is sold at an increased price so I suppose it is horses for courses.
The trouble is that the Organic faction have caused so much trouble with their comments about conventional food that they are never ever going to turn. The greener conventional produce becomes the more austere the organic rules become. I have no doubts that what you say is that organic box schemes are sometimes cheaper than supermarket prices but that is to the detrement of the organic grower who are probably selling below the cost of production and are trying hard to pay wages and other bills.
This can only go on for a short length of time. The only people, it seems to me, who are winning with organics are the accreditation companies, the Soil Associaton and their fellow accreditors, because they take their slice before the season begins. This is really the prime cause of the decline in organics is because growers are going back to conventional growing because organics has not lived up to the expectations of what the growers were lead to believe the returns. They were promised the earth now they are eating it!
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Re: Don't say "organic" say "sustainable"

Postby Tony Hague » Tue Oct 26, 2010 12:07 pm

A couple of comments on things stated above :

Organic farming is not sustainable. In principle it is, but world population is far to large to allow it to be.
What this means is that the world population is not sustainable, not organic farming.

Sustainability means getting the best possible return from a finite resource LAND.
No it doesn't. Stricly speaking, it means getting a return (any return) that can be achieved perpetually, without resource depleting effects.
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Re: Don't say "organic" say "sustainable"

Postby PLUMPUDDING » Tue Oct 26, 2010 1:36 pm

Good comments Tony.

Our inability to produce enough to feed an ever growing population cannot be blamed on organic or non-organic farming, both of which have their place.
We should be reducing the population, not trying to grow more and more to feed everyone.
Contraception, sterilization, discouraging people from having more than one or two children would be a start.
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Re: Don't say "organic" say "sustainable"

Postby Mike Vogel » Tue Oct 26, 2010 2:49 pm

The vast increase in population is the result of far greater longevity, which in turn has come from advances in medicine, rather than a more varied diet. Vitamin and other substitutes have also helped. It is true that the world at large needs to reduce its population radically, but the implications of this for dealing with the elderly are not particularly pleasant.

I have just finished proofreading the second edition of [i]Lifestyle After Cancer[i] by Prof R. J.Thomas. Among the recommendations is the consumption of a variety of berries most of which come from the far east. Reading it may make one forget that we have our blackberries, raspberries, etc and do not really need goji berries and Vietnamese gac, even though the latter may have the best concentration of antioxidants.

The most irksome thing for us in this country about sustainability is the "vegetable gap". Eating produce in season may mean for quite a lot of us feeding on an unbalanced diet for quite a high proportion of the year. Polytunnels etc are of some help in extending the variety and the growing season, but we would still be far better off in a more southerly latitude. So we do after all have some excuse.
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Re: Don't say "organic" say "sustainable"

Postby madasafish » Tue Oct 26, 2010 4:19 pm

The vast increase in population is the result of far greater longevity, which in turn has come from advances in medicine,

I agree, Mike, that is true as a generality.

As far as the UK is concerned, however, the recent and projected large increases in population are largely but not solely due to unrestricted immigration.

rather than a more varied diet

There I disagree. 100 years ago much of the UK population suffered from rickets and other diseases caused by poor nutrition. Now they do not.. Better diet has made a huge difference to most people ;;;;; except in parts of Scotland where alcohol/smoking/no work and a diet excluding fruit and veg has lead to lower life expectancy than Iraq...
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Re: Don't say "organic" say "sustainable"

Postby alan refail » Tue Oct 26, 2010 5:16 pm

Mike Vogel and madasafish

You both seem to be forgetting the 99 percent of the world's population who do not live in the United Kingdom. World poverty and hunger and uncontrolled population growth are to be found in a large part of that majority.
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Re: Don't say "organic" say "sustainable"

Postby Anja » Wed Oct 27, 2010 7:16 pm

This is a really interesting discussion, really set me thinking. I think there are several overlapping problems, which do not necessarily have a simple, single, or indeed any obvious solution at all.

Clearly, population pressure on a global scale is a major issue, and the question how to feed an ever increasing population is a big and so far unsolved one. And this is where many well meant organic principles really seem to meet their limits.

Industrial food production, however, I think has only partly arisen as a response to population pressures and hunger. It is true that the invention of artificial fertilizers (in the 19th century I believe) helped address huge problems of hunger and starvation in Europe at the time and I think Liebig, the original inventor, was motivated by this problem. It is also true, I think, that without any artificial fertilizer or pesticides food production world wide would be much lower and presumably many more people hungry.

However, the further industrialisation (and therefore ever decreasing sustainability) of agriculture today seems to be driven mostly by agro-industrial interests and while the industry likes to cite world hunger as a good reason for them to continue this trend, I think the economic motives are the over-whelming ones and they would do this regardless of world hunger and poverty. In fact, there is also an argument, I think, that much existing hunger is structural in nature, not because there isn't enough food. Meaning that the reason why so many people are hungry is because they don't have access to land to grow their own food, or because small scale farmers who sell food locally are driven off the land, not least because of increasing land grabs by the multi-national, large scale agri-businesses.

A really complicated problem therefore. That does not, mean, of course, that world population at the moment is sustainable or can go on growing indefinitely.

As to the question of whether organic is always sustainable, I would agree that it is not. Clearly, organic beans (or whatever) flown to Europe from across half the world is not sustainable, no matter how well they have been produced. Locally grown produce, even if not fully organic, would probably be more sustainable.
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Re: Don't say "organic" say "sustainable"

Postby Nature's Babe » Wed Oct 27, 2010 10:09 pm

Hi Anja, well I suppose organic is more sustainable for the land where they are grown, but not when they travel long distances yes local is more sustainable generally speaking, unless produced in a heated greenhouse, then from spain by boat is lower carbon.
I aim to treat myself to a good dehydrator, then next year I will be able to turn surplus grapes into raisins and dry tomatoes and other produce too. I also plan to dry borlotti beans for the winter months. I already have kilner jars of ratatuille, tomatoes, and pears, chutneys, pickles etc, things like squash keep for quite a few months too, A rumtoph is a fun way to preserve fruit in alcohol. Its not a hardship living on seasonal when you add in summers preserves, I'm vegetarian and get bored looking at supermarket vegetarian offerings, but home cooked they can be quite delicious and sometimes free, like the chestnut loaf I made this week, stuffed field mushrooms, and bean stew with herb dumplings tonight. I don't miss eating meat and it helps the planet, but am ok with cooking meat if that's other peoples choice, though the smell of meat cooking is quite repulsive to me now.
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Re: Don't say "organic" say "sustainable"

Postby SoilAssociation » Tue Nov 02, 2010 3:26 pm

Hello folks,

A few things to say about this interesting discussion going on. Patrick’s comments seem to have been taken wildly out of context by some – which is irritating, and detracts from the real issues at hand. More troubling however is that it seems that the GM companies’ multi-million PR machine has captured the imagination of some who should know better, resurrecting myths about the miracle crops that have been ‘just around the corner’ for well over a decade, while distorting the facts on GM crops’ performance so far.

So much is covered on this forum I won’t be able to cover everything, but want to say a quick word to clarify our position on why organic offers a sustainable solution to food and farming.

The GM companies like to give the impression that food produced from GM crops is widespread, but the truth is rather different. The area of land in on which GM crops are being grown is only 2.7% of all agricultural land world wide. A very small proportion of GM crops go directly to feed people, with most going into animal feed, biofuels, or to produce cotton. GM crops weren’t designed to feed the world, but to extend the profitability of the pesticide companies producing them. So it is no surprise that there is evidence to show GM crops can have at best the same and in many cases lower yields than non-GM crops.

Rather than reducing dependency on fertiliser and herbicides, as the GM lobby are keen to suggest, GM crops actually increase farmers’ reliance on these products. No GM crops are grown without fertiliser. GM crops have been responsible for an increase of 380 million pounds of herbicide use in the USA over the first 13 years of commercial use of GM crops (1996-2008). Over-reliance on particular chemicals, such as glyphosate, has speeded up the development of herbicide resistant ‘superweeds’ that are devastating crops across America.

The challenges farming now faces are the increasing scarcity and price of oil and the need to cut greenhouse gases emissions by 80% before 2050. Rather than burning up oil and gas for the agrochemicals on which GM crops are reliant, the future of food production lies in systems that fertilise crops by taking nitrogen from the air using energy from the sun, as in organic farming. Organic farming has been shown to contribute to food security in Africa where food yields have more than doubled where organic practices have been used, and bringing other benefits for water supply, biodiversity and the fertility of the soil.

We already have the tools at our disposal to tackle many of the problems that climate change and resource constraints are presenting. The IAASTD report by 400 scientists and chaired by Defra’s chief scientist concluded that a shift to more agro-ecological techniques (such as organic) would be beneficial to achieve secure and sustainable food production for the world’s population, while GM crops were in no way essential to feed the world. Rather than being fooled by the same old claims from the GM companies, we would do better to invest in the less exciting, but well proven approaches that will enable the world’s farmers to reliably produce nutritious food with the resources available to them.

Organic food and farming is the first step for anyone taking climate change seriously, alongside a shift to less and mainly grass-fed meat and dairy products, with more seasonal fruit and vegetables. As oil and gas becomes scarcer and more expensive, the resulting higher cost of Nitrogen fertiliser will make organic food, relying on solar power for fertility, cheaper than non-organic.

Organic farming sequesters carbon in the soil and cuts out energy-intensive fertiliser manufacture. The Government's Climate Change act has committed the UK to an 80% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, with a 34% cut by 2030. To come anywhere near meeting these targets we must make fundamental changes to the way we farm, process, distribute, prepare and eat our food over the next 20 years. Organic farming offers the best, currently available, practical model for addressing climate-friendly food production. This is because it sequesters higher levels of carbon in the soil, is less dependent on oil-based fertilisers and pesticides and confers resilience in the face of climatic extremes. If we are serious about tackling climate change all of us; Government, industry and the public alike; need to get serious about supporting organic and sustainable agriculture. Business as usual is no longer an option.

I hope this helps,

Georgia
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Re: Don't say "organic" say "sustainable"

Postby Nature's Babe » Tue Nov 02, 2010 8:33 pm

Georgia, very well stated :)
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