Yesterday I read this in ‘The Rough Guide to Ethical Living’
‘The third principle deals with the lesser-known aspects of organic farming: social justice (“those involved in organic agriculture should conduct human relationships in a manner that ensure fairness at all levels and to all parties – farmers, workers, processors, distributors, traders and consumers”) and the humane treatment of animals…the idea of fairness also applies to preserving resources for future generations.’
I have to admit that I didn’t know fairness was one of the guiding principles of organic food. Another page on The Soil Association website states
‘This principle emphasises that those involved in organic agriculture should conduct human relationships in a manner that ensures fairness at all levels and to all parties – farmers, workers, processors, distributors, traders and consumers. Organic agriculture should provide everyone involved with a good quality of life and contribute to food sovereignty and reduction of poverty. It aims to produce a sufficient supply of good quality food and other products.‘
Finding all that out has been making me think more about organic food that I had previously.
Many people I know are very passionate about Fairtrade coffee, chocolate etc because it offers a fair deal to the people producing the food.
We are even happy to pay a bit extra to make sure that happens and might make a conscious decision to seek out Fairtrade products if possible.
Yet so many of our daily essentials are not available in Fairtrade.
I haven’t noticed Fairtrade flour, Fairtrade meat or Fairtrade tins of plum tomato for example.
But now I find out that there are products (i.e. organic ones) that claim to be based on a principle of fairness and that is uncomfortable for me to think about because THEY ARE SO MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE.
Last night (and to my general reluctance) we did our grocery shopping at Asda. For the first time I went with this knowledge about organic food.
I eyed up the Asda ‘Smartprice’ tinned tomatoes and they were priced at 31p. Then I eyed up the Asda Organics tinned tomatoes and they were priced at about 62p.
Twice as much.
What that means is that if I wanted to buy 12 tins of tinned tomatoes to keep me going for a month it would be roughly £3.60 more expensive than buying 12 tins of Smartprice tomatoes.
Taken over a year that choice of buying 12 tins of organic tomatoes per month instead of the Asda Smartprice would be £43.20.
And that’s only for tomatoes.
I was also looking at strong bread flour. 1.5kg of non organic flour cost about 60p (it might have been on offer) while 1kg of organic flour was £1.20.
What that means is that if I wanted to make two of my sourdough loaves the non-organic ones would be working out at about 60p (plus cost of electricity) while the two organic ones would be working out at about £1.80 (plus the cost of electricity). Three times the amount.
From a Christian point of view it was playing all sorts of tricks in my head.
1 There is the stewardship of money question. Growing up money was tight so people like my gran or mum watched the pennies with the idea that you got the essentials as cheaply as possible and then used whatever was left over for the non essentials. ‘Money doesn’t grow on trees’ so we needed to be wise in its use which means that if you can buy a tin of tomatoes for 31p instead of 62p it would be wasteful to buy the dear one. Plus you simply mightn’t be able to afford the more expensive one if money was tight
2 That thing Jesus said about ‘not worrying about what you will eat or drink’ came to my mind. Here I was, a relatively wealthy westerner procrastinating over whether to buy a tin of tinned tomatoes. Do I not realise how fortunate I am to be able to make that choice? On the way home from Asda H___ was saying how a missionary family in Malawi couldn’t easily obtain sugar due to shortages in the country.
On the other hand Jesus mentions that rather than worrying about food we should ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness’ which means that we should live lives that just and right.
I suppose that means we should also treat people fairly and with love, which means choosing fairness over exploitation even if that means at personal cost to ourselves.
So even though organic food is more expensive and costly, maybe the cost is something I need to consider paying as a Christian?
I don’t know. I’m still thinking through this one. And there are lots of issues at play.