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Published: Wednesday 28 August, 2013

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Like two out of every three consumers, I buy organic food regularly. I do so for many reasons. I want to avoid the residues of agrichemicals that turn up with regularity in 30 per cent of all foods, and some 40 per cent of fruit and vegetables that are grown conventionally. I just cant see that regularly ingesting small amounts of toxic chemicals can be good for me, and however much the Government tries to reassure me that such microscopic quantities are nothing at all to worry about, I just dont believe it.



But hang on a moment. When I pick up a carton of organic Chilean blueberries, Argentinian blackberries, or Zambian sugarsnap peas, all airfreighted from their countries of origin, my carefully constructed rationale for buying organic is shot full of holes. Only the most stubborn climatechange deniers still challenge the notion that airfreight, with all its CO2 emissions, is contributing to global warming and helping to heat up the planet towards the point of no return. Air freight emits more greenhouse gases per food mile than any other mode of transport. This is what I am aiding and abetting when I pick up any airfreighted product whether or not it carries an organic stamp.



Planes have rapidly become the Achilles heel of many wouldbe environmentalists. We compost, we buy energysaving bulbs, we recycle more packaging, but when it comes to surrendering the relatively recently established idea that we can jet around the globe as many times as we can afford it, we drag our feet, and fortifying accounts of the joys of homespun alternatives, such as cycling holidays in the Highlands, dont quite hit the spot. But while there is at least a counterargument to be made that people need to fly to visit their families in farflung places, or just generally to broaden the mind, there is absolutely no necessity for British consumers to eat fragile fruits and vegetables that have been transported, at great expense to the planet, from thousands of miles away.



Airfreighted fruit and vegetables are a bad habit that our supermarket chains have cultivated among British consumers. They have actively encouraged the idea that it is entirely reasonable for us to expect to be able to buy every fruit michael kors factory store online and vegetable produced anywhere on the planet, 365 days of the year. Perishable, airfreighted, outofseason produce has give supermarkets a perfect device for adding value, for which read ma michael kors factory store online ke more profit. There is only so much you can charge for a bunch of British broccoli even the sweetest, freshest, purplesprouting variety. But fly in some tenderstem Zimbabwean broccoli, all cleaned, and trimmed and ready for the microwave, and you have a licence to print money.



No airfreighted cherry, avocado, or pineapple can ever be considered as a green, or environmentally aware food choice, but the dissonance between the words organic and airfreighted is particularly stark. A growing number of consumers, having taken on board many elements of the proorganic argument, now expect to be able to buy in organic form every line thats available on the conventional produce shelves. But since demand for organic food outstrips supply, many more organic lines are likely to have been flown in. Try to buy organic asparagus today, and the chances are it that has been airfreighted from Peru. If the environment matters to you, then surely it is lunacy to overlook generous bunches of conventional British, or even roadfreighted Spanish asparagus, for a few airfreighted organic Peruvian stems ?



The UKs Soil Association, Britains leading organic food certifying body, has now sharpened this debate. Pushed by less supermarketfocused organic growers who believe that it should be promoting locally grown, or at least UKgrown food if it wants to maintain the integrity of the organic brand it is floating the possibility that it might consider stripping airfreighted foods of their organic status. This has prompted a heated reaction from some development organisations who argue that airfreighted organic food is crucial to poor countries such as Ghana, which earn valuable foreign currency this way to create employment and underwrite improvements to infrastructure, such as schools, clinics and roads.



There is more than an hint of emotional blackmail here. Its an attempts to play the helping people card to trump the overarching environmental argument that airfreighting food is both unnecessary and destructive. It conveniently ignores the fact that it is precisely such countries, where water is scarce and soil is prone to erosion and desertification, that will be in the front line as climate change takes hold, suffering the harsh effects of drought or flood. First and foremost, they need to base their agriculture around feeding their own people and safeguarding their own countrys food security, a task that will be made doubly difficult as global warming takes its toll.



The development lobby also places too much trust in the honourable business intentions of our fickle supermarket giants who are perfectly capable of ditching suppliers at the drop of a hat. Bear in mind that most of the companies who currently supply our supermarkets with airfreighted organics have only been doing so for the past few years. They may still be in the honeymoon phase with their supermarket clients, but it is only a matter of time until supermarket dons start playing them off against one another as they do with their conventional suppliers, threatening to take their business elsewhere.



We woul michael kors factory store online d also be naive to believe that when we buy an airfreighted organic import, the high cost at the checkout is equitably redistributed back down the supply chain. A Kenyan grower explained to me that he was paid a mere 26 pence per kilo for green beans that retailed on the shelves of our major multiples for more than 5. It is our supermarkets, not the producers, who largely benefit, because they are adept at extracting the lions share of the margin and exploiting the gap between the producers in those faraway places and the consumers in the UK and Ireland. michael kors factory store online

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