Going Organic

13 Sep 2001

The organic sector of agriculture is expanding rapidly, and as interest grows so does the level of commerce. Public opinion about organically-produced foods is pock-marked with prejudices and half-truths – many of these false opinions coming from the lack of full information in this sector. However, this lack of information should not be blamed on the producers or on the quality of their products: in reality, the fault lies more with consumers.

To truly understand what you buy, you must dedicate time to informing yourself. Today, we have ever less time and interest to spend precious minutes on a food purchase. The consumer must find the way and the desire to learn what they are bringing into their kitchen.

Another problem confronted by organic producers is their history, in the past, the designation ‘organic’ did not necessarily guarantee quality. Now, the new challenge for organic agriculture is to be able to give organically-produced products high-quality sensory and ‘organoleptic’ characteristics. Now we must demand that eating an organic apple be pleasurable – with good taste, a fine texture, and enjoyable aroma. Contrary to common opinion, scientific research has shown us that an organic apple with these characteristics can indeed be cultivated.

Fortunately, organic foods are becoming a sucessful phenomenon in the United States and in Europe. In the States, the organic movement has reached a point where restaurants certify the percentage of their food prepared with organic ingredients. This demonstrates how great the demand for for truly natural products is today. In Europe, instead, the interest in organic food trends has come from the fear of food scandals that we have had to endure in the recent past. People now see the devastating results of eating manipulated and treated foods has on their health and on the environment. Finally, consumers have woken up to the dangers of these foods, and have decided to change their ways.

The first sign of this change in our mentality is the acceptance of the fact that an organically-produced product costs more than a food produced with chemical additives. In addition, we must do justice to those who refuse the traditional agricultural systems and who pay a high price for organic certification. It is necessary to become aware that the social costs of errors such as mad cow disease are much larger than the small increases in price we pay to buy clean organic food.

In your opinion, did the Italian system spend more to spread information to defend itself from BSE, or to attempt to develop animal maintenance systems where the animals are fed only organic feed?
The answer seems clear to me, and I think we have arrived at a moment where everyone would like to prevent the occurence of these disasters in the future. Organic food could be the only feasible and functional choice at this time. We hope that those who choose to oppose these plans change their minds, and that those who implement and facilitate organic agriculture do not get over-greed, but operate always in the interests of the consumer and in the search for high quality.

Carlo Petrini

from La Stampa 13/09/2001

(translated by Anya Fernald)

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