Soil Association backs down on organic air freight issue

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Soil association, Organic food, Sustainable agriculture

The UK’s Soil Association has decided to allow organic air freighted food to carry its certification mark, despite proposing in 2007 that it should not be certified unless it also met fair trade and ethical standards.

The Soil Association, which regulates organic food in the UK, had previously argued that non-fairtrade organic produce flown into Britain should carry not its logo, as it could be responsible for up to 177 times the amount of carbon dioxide as the same produce carried by sea.

But the organic watchdog has now said that improving the livelihoods of farmers in developing countries should be prioritised.

The decision comes after a two-stage consultation with stakeholders, during which many expressed the belief that organic produce should stand for environmental sustainability as well as means of production.

However, the Soil Association said: “The strongest view expressed was that, when addressing air freight, organic agriculture’s potential to alleviate poverty and enhance the local environment in developing countries should be a key consideration.”

A Soil Association spokesperson told FoodNavigator.com that after consulting its licensees in East Africa, the organisation had concluded that “insisting on ethical trade standards might not help those farmers.” ​She added that the organisation is working with farmers in order to develop a set of feasible ethical and environmental sustainability standards.

Air freight monitoring

The new Soil Association standard for air freighted organic food requires monitoring of organic produce and ingredients entering the UK, including a record of what and how much was freighted, the origin, and date and port of entry.

However, the organisation’s spokesperson said that only a small amount of the food it certifies will be affected, as very few of its producers use air freight.

“We found that it was less than one per cent of our licensees,” ​she said. “It is an area a lot of producers are trying to get around. We don’t want it expanding and that is why we have asked our licensees to monitor the situation.”

Related topics: Market Trends, Sustainability

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