Organic Certification is a weird idea. In effect we organic producers, transformers and resellers have to pay an authorised Organic Certification Organisation to prove that we do not do things, we do not use organically modified organisms, we do not use synthetic chemicals, we do not feed our animals rubbish, we do not keep animals in confined spaces, we do no use pesticides, herbicides or fungicides.
Paying for the right to say we do not do things is necessary for us to use the organic logo, and the European organic leaf label. It is in effect a sort of tax on organic, though the money goes to the organic certification organisation and not the government. For small producers the cost can hit quite hard.
At least that payment ensures we actually are monitored and regulated as I argue previously in this post, Is it time to abolish Organic Certification Organisations?
The UK Land Workers’ Alliance, a member of the world wide La Via Campesina, in their Equality in the Countryside Manifesto (PDF) propose that actually it is industrial farmers and transformers who should pay for certification, and organic in effect should be the norm. An idealistic idea perhaps but it has a certain appeal. It would certainly make food labelling a fascinating, is somewhat lengthy read, in fact given the amount of murky details that would have to be disclosed food labelling would be more like those pages of information that I get with my post op heart medicine. For consumer recognition we would need symbols indicating what the industrial food actually contains.
Here are a few suggestions for symbols for industrial foods
A withered plant.
Organic producers have to prove that we do not use pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. So industrial producers would have to disclose what treatments their crops have been treated with and the possible health implications of those treatments. That would raise few eye brows, especially if some enterprising would gather together the scientific research on both the health and the environmental impact of the each of the commonly used ‘cides and publish it on a handy website funded naturally by the principle pushers of these poisons, the chemical companies.
A clipped beak
Organic producers must prove that poultry has a certain space per bird, the UK Soil Association has set a limit of a thousand birds per hectare for organic production, a restrictions on the routine use of synthetic yolk colourants, in-feed or in-water medications, other food additives and synthetic amino acids. Beak trimming, an industrial technique to stop over crowded birds from attacking their squashed in neighbours is banned.
A sun with a line through it
Organic producers must allow animals access to the open air, indeed as for chickens there are organic regulation on the amount of and per animal. Cows must be out doors for 200 days or more per year, food stuff should be at least 60% grass based. Industrial production techniques are much more intensive, with animals, such as pigs and cows housed in artificial lighting with no access to open air.
On both these points the UK’s RSPCA has developed a scheme called Freedom Food that tries to promote positive animal husbandry.
More silly ideas will follow, wine is needed for inspiration.