Organic and Fair, Local Next?

25 Oct 2007

The UK Soil Association announced yesterday that food air-freighted to Britain from developing countries will only bear an organic label in the future if it can be shown to not only meet high environmental standards but also fair trade production standards.

During the recent public debate over the energy impact of food flown long distances, there have been calls for Britain’s leading organic inspection organization to ban air-freighted organic food. However, the Soil Association rejected this call, fearing it would penalize farmers in poorer nations too highly. Farmers in developing countries are in danger of losing markets due to this “green” protectionism.

While the Soil Association believes air-freight will be phased out in the future, they see the linking of organic and fair trade standards as a way to deliver maximum environmental and social benefits in the meantime. The fair-trade standard for organic produce will not be implemented for at least one year.

These new social standards will be similar to those that apply to Fair-trade products, requiring organic food producers in developing nations to meet the social needs of their communities and to guarantee wages and good working conditions for employees.

Prior to taking this decision, the Soil Association consulted around 200 organizations, including the World Trade Organization, governments and UN bodies. New Zealand, Kenya and the UK’s Department for International Development argued strongly against a ban, with UN bodies urging extreme caution to protection vulnerable economies.

Growing demand for fresh produce in Britain has seen the quantity of fresh fruit and vegetables flown into the country more than double in fifteen year. While air-freighted goods account for less than 1% of the total UK “food miles”, the government estimates they are responsible for 11% of the totoal CO2 emissions caused by food transport.

Source: Guardian Limited

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