There's a striking piece in today's Times about the plight of African organic farmers.
In recent times, the boom in organic produce has proved to be a lifeline for many otherwise-poor African producers. Since becoming a certified organic farmer, one Kenyan told the paper, "since then, life has improved for us...Prices are better than for conventional farming."
There is a growing threat on the horizon. Much as western consumers have learned to appreciate the healthy benefits to us and the environment of the organic way, so we are beginning to be aware of our carbon footprints. And I find myself feeling guilty when my Tesco asparagus has been shipped in from Peru. This issue goes to the heart of two primary goals of the Labour Government - both to reduce poverty in developing countries, and to combat global warming.
As the article in the Times makes clear, this dilemma is about to be exploited by the Soil Association, which has within it wealthy UK organic producers who feel threatened by foreign imports. The SA is now getting ready to remove the 'organic' classification from imported veg.
To be fair to the SA, they have been conducting a debate, and there's a range of views on their website. It seems likely, however, that the SA is preparing for a general or selective ban on the organic status of produce from Africa and South America flown to the UK.
It is, as the Kenyans point out, simply a non-tariff barrier to trade - a ruse to protect big UK organic producers from the competition of poorer Third World farmers. And it stinks.
My solution? - multiple chains like Tesco and Morrisons should be able to tell us whether a particular product has been organically produced without the interference of the SA. We trust the supermarkets to tell us how much protein, carbohydrates and saturated fat is in a bag of apples - why not how it's been produced too?
If the Soil Association is determined to behave like a UK cartel it should receive short shrift from consumers. Perhaps now it has outlived its usefulness.