Organic for the future

Less Chemicals?
Woolworths announced yesterday that by 2012 all of their fresh produce would be either organically grown, or a hybrid requiring less agricultural chemicals, falling under their “Farming for the Future” logo.

They’ve faced criticism, with some calling it greenwashing, while the environmental group WWF South Africa has apparently backed them.

Any step towards using less chemicals is a step in the right direction, but it’s important to keep the distinction between organic and chemical. It’s also concerning because Woolworths also claims that they’ve realised organic farming “was not a large-scale solution because the yields could be inconsistent”. Farmers who have grown chemically for years, abusing their soils, often face a drop in yields when they convert to organic. Their soils are weak, and they may not have developed the skills required to grow organically. It can take five or more years for yields to revert to pre-conversion levels.

It’s risky for farmers, and a whole new way of thinking and farming, quite different to relying on chemicals. It’s understandable that farmers are reluctant, unwilling to take a jump that could cost them everything.

In many ways, small-scale farmers are best placed to make the leap, as it’s the very scale of the large commercial farms, and their risky monocultures, that present challenges when farming organically.

Small-scale farmers, who can grow a number of crops, not being dependant on one single bug-enticing monoculture, can outperform their large counterparts. Their greatest challenge is access to markets, but their small scale means they’re often not suited to dealing with giant supermarkets.

We see it as being a critical part of our role that we support these small farmers, and won’t compromise on growing organically.

Insecticides
As these things tend to happen, shortly before receiving the Woolworths press release, I came across some research that linked insecticides to various immune diseases, including lupus, and arthritis. Farmers (and farmworkers) are particularly at risk because of their relatively higher exposure, but the study showed a strong link to household chemicals too.

Here today…
We have quite a few returning products as our stock availability continues to improve, including one of my favourites, vanilla pods. We also have toys from the Green Shop (under Baby and Childcare) and Vondis pet foods available this week. A reminder that these products are only offered monthly and bi-monthly respectively, so be sure you order what you need in time.

To order, head on over to www.ethical.org.za.

Have a wonderful week,
the Ethical Co-op team