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Thoughts on ‘Big Organic’

Is Big Organic Best – or is small organic better?! I came across a very interesting blog piece this morning on the website, questioning whether ‘Organic’ has been stripped of its meaning – in particular by the success of large scale organic agriculture. I have been having some thoughts along these lines myself, wondering about the market pressures that larger scale and more ‘professional’ organic operations exert on smaller, local organic and sustainable producers. Is there a risk that smaller independent operators get priced-out and squeezed out of their local markets by the success of larger, possibly more mechanised operations?

Once you start exploring this issue, further questions arise. For example, at what point does any given producer/supplier become ‘Big Organic’, and with what consequences? Is it inevitable that ‘Big Organic’ takes on some of the qualities of other ‘Big Business’ that lead to concern amongst some? Perhaps there is merit in considering a ‘balanced scorecard’ when it comes to rating food producers, suppliers and purveyors – maybe taking into account localness (and road/air miles), sustainability, contribution to community and treatment of business-partners/supply-chain – and perhaps even tastiness of produce? This, though, raises further questions of how this type of scoring might be achieved, and how consumers might best make sense of and weigh up the different claims to ‘worthy food’.

From a personal point of view, I would rather eat organic food from a significant distance away (and from a big producer) than food from a small producer in my own neighbourhood that may have been sprayed with toxic chemicals and/or had its growth enhanced by synthetic growth promoters as a substitute for the slow-growth uptake of essential natural nutrients (though I’m not about to change the website/project’s name to to reflect this order of preference!). Once there is a wealth of choice of sources of organic produce then it is possible to look closer to home for your food and to weigh the merits of other factors. I would be interested in others’ points of view!

Adrian Patch,

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