Organic farming and food: how is that going to work?

“In the long term, organic needs to continue to increase its visibility and justify that price premium by highlighting its environmental and health benefits.”

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The Sustainable Food Trust’s latest look at food and farming was posted on VGS social media:

A UK-wide transition to sustainable and regenerative farming practices, to tackle the climate, nature and public health crises, could produce enough food to maintain and potentially even improve current levels of self-sufficiency, provided we ate differently, ate less and cut food waste.

These are the key conclusions of our report, Feeding Britain from the Ground Up, which explores the potential impacts on land use, food production and individual diets of a UK-wide transition to  sustainable farming based on biological principles.

Feeding Britain | Sustainable Food Trust

And the posting gave rise to some comment:

How is that going to work? We buy as much organic as we can get and our food bill is probably twice if not more than we would pay if we didn’t buy organic. Not many want to or can afford to double their weekly shopping bill, as evidenced by the numbers of people using food banks. Come on VGS get real for goodness sake…

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And there has indeed been a lot of discussion around ‘organic’…

On the one hand, there’s been quite a push – with these stories from today.

There has been a huge collapse in the quality in soil worldwide:

In India, soil degradation is one of the factors, alongside debt, that is said to have led to the shocking statistic of nearly 30 people in the farming sector taking their own lives, on average, every day. To try to improve matters, a popular Indian guru called Sadhguru is continuing to lead a global campaign called SaveSoil, which pushes to improve soil health around the world. He is calling for farmers to be given incentives, such as financial support, to keep a minimum of 3% of organic content in their soil.

New ground as tech aims to help boost soil health – BBC News

And there has been a collapse in biodiversity:

A woodpecker that was thought to have almost died out locally has been spotted on a farm and experts believe it is due to organic farming practices. The lesser spotted woodpecker was seen at Hollis Mead Organic Dairy Farm in Corscombe by the Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) during a regular survey. Industrial farming practices have not been good for wildlife, according to the farm’s managing director Rex Fisher. He said: “Agriculture has done a terrible thing to nature in this country.”

Rare woodpecker returns to Dorset ‘due to organic farming’ – BBC News

Supermarkets’ organic brands are doing well meanwhile, despite the current state of the economy: The Organic Food Company King Charles Helped Start and StormBrands behind refreshed design for Morrisons’ organic range

And farmers clearly see the advantages of going organic: Farm within London’s M25 motorway set for organic conversion – Farmers Weekly

However, as our social media commentator notes, organic is still expensive – with this report from earlier in the month:

Since October 2021 the organic food and drink market has seen a decline in volume sales, down by 16% for the 12 w/e 10 July 2022. This decline has occurred after a long period of growth. Organic meat and dairy have seen an increase in prices correlate with a drop in volume sales. Whilst consumers are willing to buy organic, price remains a key barrier, made worse by inflation. In the long term, organic needs to continue to increase its visibility and justify that price premium by highlighting its environmental and health benefits.

The organic market sees a dip in performance in 2022 | AHDB

So, how do we ‘get real’ when it comes to organic farming and food?

   
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