Organic farming uses low intervention techniques in order to control pests that inevitably occur as a result of a large scale farming operation. This means organic pesticides (which could include pyrethrum or copper sulphates), crop rotations and inter-planting are all used to varying degrees in order to get the elusive “Organic” status.
But this doesn’t make Organic produce the holy grail of food choices. We sell mostly organic foods in our shop, and for the most part, we are happy with how they were produced. Most people who look for and buy organic are concerned with the health impacts that chemical farming may cause, and they are happy to know that there is an organisation (AOC) that has done some due diligence on their behalf. This is all great. Buy organic. But there are other things to consider if you want to be an informed consumer. What we want from our food is to know where it comes from and how it is produced.
Often, with organic produce, we don’t know a thing about it apart from that it wasn’t sprayed with chemicals. Maybe it was produced using inefficient water practice, wholesale soil degradation and ecosystem monopolisation? It might be organic and healthy for us, but it may not be good for the planet. The point I’m making here is that Organic is not the same as ethical.
In order to be ethical, we need to know about the food, and the only way to do that is to get as close to its production as possible. We want to know about the piece of land, the district, the farmer, the processing plant, the mode of transport in order to make an informed decision about whether we are happy to support that producer with our money.
Many small scale farmers can’t afford to get Organic status because of issues beyond their control (i.e. the farmer in WA who lives next door to a GMO canola field that blows onto his property), but are doing their best to produce food that is chemical free, and earth friendly. How do we find these guys? How do we support them?
I would like Green Caravan to get out of being labelled “Organic Whole Foods” and come up with a description that reflects the ethics we are trying to bring to our food buying habits (Ethical Whole Foods?). I don’t know what it will take to change minds that in the battle of Local vs Organic, Local is worth supporting, because we can ask questions and visit the place where our food is produced. We can be informed, and therefore, ethical foodies.