Less room in shopping baskets for pricey organic food

by , Senior Advocate Consumer Rights 2 January 2013
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Demand for organic food is falling as household budgets are squeezed. Are you finding there are fewer organic options in your local supermarket? Have you been priced out of buying organic?

Bright red cherry tomatoes

According to a report by the Co-op, the demand for organic food has apparently dropped by more than a fifth since the recession began. I have to say I’m not very surprised.

Even when I was a student many, many years ago, I bought more organic products than I do currently, because I felt strongly about the potential health implications and impact on the environment. I think that these days, organic food is a bit too expensive to be an option.

I now opt to do my food shopping in local stores, not only to support local businesses, but because I find it’s actually cheaper than buying from supermarkets.

I’m also eating more fruit and vegetables than I used to, and I buy most of my fresh produce from local stores where organic options aren’t available. I’ve chosen to ignore the alleged risks that come with food that has been grown with inorganic pesticides.

Instead, I grow my own food when I can and don’t use any pesticides at all, apart from the occasional smattering of slug pellets. I just pick out the bugs with my bare hands.

Ethical eating on the up

Interestingly though, although spending on organic food has fallen by 21% since the downturn, the report says that we’ve been buying more ethical produce. For instance, sales of free-range eggs, sustainable fish and fair-trade products have all increased.

I’m one of the consumers who isn’t cutting back on these ethical products. As eggs, fish and fair-trade products make up less of my shopping basket than fruit and veg, I feel I can afford to contribute to making the world a better place by focusing on these ethical purchases.

Without certainty about the health benefits of organic food, including whether it provides more nutrients or protects me from potentially harmful chemicals, it’s hard for me to know if it’s worth making other sacrifices to fit organic food into my monthly budget.

Would I go back to organic food if I could afford it? Yes – absolutely. I might even make the extra sacrifice now if I strongly believed it would make a big difference to my health.

Have you changed your purchasing habits of ethical and organic products since the recession began? Are you bucking the trend?

7 comments

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wavechange

In a world full of counterfeit products and processed food of dubious quality, how can we be sure that organic food is genuine? A lot of organic vegetables look too perfect to have been produced without the use of pesticides.

We should remember, too, that organic farming tends to be less intensive, meaning that more land is needed to produce the same amount of food. We know that modern farming is not good for wildlife, but loss of natural habitat for organic farming is not good either.

I’m more convinced by the arguments for ethical farming and improved animal husbandry, but these seem to attract less interest than organic produce.

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L2

I’ve always thought that about the organic food too Wavechange. Who’s to know if its really as organic as they say?

Organic? Its just something to use as a USP over the other food.

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Karl

Organic? what a myth! Its just a con for people with more money than sense

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chrisb1

Karl, if you have ever tasted the difference between organic carrots and non-organic (esp’ the juice that has been freshly extracted) you wouldn’t say it was “just a con for people with more money than sense”.
Organic food crops have little if any of the “cides”……….. pesti’, herbi’, which are harmful to health.
http://www.panna.org/issues/food-agriculture/pesticides-on-food
http://www.toxicsaction.org/problems-and-solutions/pesticides

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chrisb1

I agree with Wavechange for the most part; how can we tell though if organic food really is organic? well there are essentially two ways of knowing this: is the product certified by the Soil Association? and if you have grown it yourself.
My background is from a rural community where it was always traditional to grow your own food, and that would include all manner of vegetables and fruits and most definitely organic. My late father would use “leaf mold” from the local untouched woods as his fertilizer base, and extracted from 2 to 3 feet below the surface.
Although people have been cutting back on organic food since the recession, in my area most all the restaurants are full most evenings, so I think it’s a question of having ones priorities sorted rather than cost.
There was also a cost-analysis made a year or so ago with households who said they could not afford organic food at all, but when this cost was compared with their regular weekly shopping products, most all were spending more money on processed foods than they ever would on organics.
Much depends on a households priorities as to what foods they buy, and this seems to be more to do with convenience and time, rather than economics.

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wavechange

chrisb

Growing your own food is the best choice, providing you can choose foods that can be grown without the need for pesticides. One of my earliest memories, as a young child, was going out with my father to collect leaf mould for his vegetable garden.

How do we know that food carrying the Soil Association’s brand is what it claims to be? We do not. Here is a quotation from their website:

“Our certification process does not rely on testing. To simply test the end product would undermine our philosophy and principles.”

I guess that most producers of organic food are honest, but the fact that the SA does not carry out testing encourages unscrupulous people to ignore the rules. It is very easy to test for certain pesticides and the SA really ought to employ some chemists to do this.

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chrisb1

Your right Wavechange, the SA should carry out testing to ensure organic is organic, and yes the best way is to grow your own, as my own father did and his father before him.
I vividly remember as a young boy visiting my grandfathers house in the Summer and was constantly amazed at the wide variety of vegetables and fruits in his very large back garden. Nothing like a ripe juicy pear picked straight from the tree, but nothing like the experience of picking a ripe juicy apple from one of his trees, and then taking a large bite before realizing it was a “cooking apple” Yeuk!!!

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