An interesting Soil Association press release hit my inbox this week with a list of contrasting opinions on banning air freighted organic food. It features the likes of Abel & Cole, Planet Organic and campaigners at Airport Watch. Some love the idea, some hate it. Click through to read a copy and paste from the release. Right now, the Association's considering everything from a general and selective ban to a labelling scheme and business as usual.
Emily Armisted, senior campaigner for Greenpeace, responded, "As climate scientists warn us that we have just ten years to stabalise global emissions it seems ridiculous to be flying food half-way round the world. Aviation is one of the fastest growing sources of emissions and limiting its growth is crucial to dealing with the very serious threat climate change poses. Any sensible and sustainable approach to food production and distribution would see air-freight phased out.”
Alexander Kasterine, senior market development advisor, International Trade Centre, said, "Food miles is a misleading and simplistic concept and not a reliable indicator of the environmental impact of a product. We need to consider the energy used across the whole supply chain from farm to fork. The fresh fruit and vegetable industry is a great success story of African agriculture, generating income for the rural poor who now have better access to health care and education for their children. The Soil Association is threatening many thousands of poor people's livelihoods in Africa and elsewhere with a proposal that has no scientific basis."
Paul Moore, marketing manager for organic
food company Crazy Jack Organic, said, "Air freight may be necessary
when demanded by the market in order to retain contracts with the multiple
retailers. For this reason I would prefer the option of labelling air freighted
Bill Vorley, senior researcher at the International Institute for the Environment and Development, commented on the consultation, “I hope the Soil Association air freight standards will provide a permanent exemption for the least developed countries.”
Anthony Pile, founder of Blue Skies, organic food importers, said, "We would see any change to the rules as unfair to us and unfair to Africa. The carbon emissions for air freighted food is something like 1 per cent of the total emissions. Why hit farmers who have a tiny carbon footprint and often live without electricity?"
John Stewart, campaigner for Airport Watch, said, “The Government needs to make changes to reduce the amount of air freight flown into the UK. Air freighting is too cheap and this encourages producers from developing countries to export food rather than look for local markets.”
Reneé Elliot, founding director, Planet Organic foodstore, said, "We haven't taken a corporate decision on this issue. Banning air freight would be easy for Planet Organic because our focus is seasonal and local, but this is only a tiny part of the world's carbon footprint and should not be looked at in isolation. We support a selective ban, with an exemption for the least developed countries and I don't agree with the option of food labelling because it would be too complicated."
Keith Abel, founder and director of Abel & Cole organic home delivery service, said, "We banned air freight from the very start. We feel air freighting food is an absolute catastrophe and the reason people buy organic food is because they want food that is seasonal, local and sustainable both for themselves, for their own health and for the planet. Organic should be a by-word for sustainable agriculture. We should remember that western companies, not third world growers and farmers, own many of the businesses that will be affected. Also, to say we must sustain these livelihoods is like saying we should sustain the livelihoods of Easyjet pilots and take £15 flights to Barcelona every Friday."