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Tuesday, 23 January, 2001, 17:00 GMT
Are we losing the taste for organic foods?
The UK food retailer Iceland has said it is reviewing its organic lines after a fall in sales.
The company said last year it had secured 40% of the world's organic vegtables and was the first big retailer to ban genetically modified material from its own brand foods.
But the company has now described the total move into organic foods last September as a "bold but misguided policy".
Do you buy organic? Why is there a lack of interest in organic produce? Are you getting value for money?
Gillian Clark, UK
I've bought a few organic items and have generally been impressed by the taste but I feel that large shops see it as a good excuse to add to their already excessive profits by charging an unjustifiable premium on the goods.
Also, why can't many of the products be frozen?
When I was young living in the sub-continent, I used to eat only organic food and it tasted good. Now, since I have been in the UK for a while I have become "scared" of eating organic food. Is it grown properly? Is it grown with the same care that my family used to grow it back in the 70's? Also, there is little or no difference in taste in the UK.
Until fairly recently we bought all the fresh organic food we could get. However, there has been an increasing tendency for organic products to be flown in from other countries, mainly because they are out of season in the UK.
This is completely nuts! People who use moral arguments in favour of organic food should recognise that this means that you have to do without some of them in winter.
Iceland had no chance with its organic-only policy. Its customer pool is from the wrong social mix, not enough of the chattering classes.
I don't buy organic food on principal. In a world where there still exists famine and malnutrition, we need organic food like a fish needs a pair of fog-free goggles. Resources should be directed towards testing to make sure that GM food and pesticides are safe rather than wasted on uneaten rotten vegetables.
I buy organic food whenever possible. It is the only way in the US to be assured that it is GM-free, as well as to know that toxic chemicals were not used in its production. I am unfamiliar with the Iceland store and its typical customer, but the fact that a major chain made the decision to offer organic food is an exciting, if bold, step. However, it is true that to produce quality food is more costly than to just spray on a load of chemicals. The input costs are higher.
Organic foods were a fad, just like all those other health fads. It was "in" for a while and now it's "out".
Time for everyone to move on.
I seldom buy organic food. I only shop when I run out of stock anyway but I think it hasn't been marketed for efficiently.
The word organic is susceptible to abuse. Many growers lay claim to organic farming yet in reality they cut corners in order to substitute quantity for quality. I believe the fault lies within the consumer for accepting substandard products. Fruit and vegetables need not look like manna from the gods, but they should taste thus.
Given that Iceland's image is inexorably linked with frozen TV dinners and other assorted junk food, they really are the last supermarket you would expect to benefit from people buying organic. The people who are prepared to pay the premium for organic produce are doing so for fresh produce, not frozen.
Iceland are paying the price for jumping on an inappropriate bandwagon.
Lindsay Ponting, UK
Choosing organic over non-organic produce is indeed a question of price, but also of "culture". In Italy, for example, organic food is very successful, but here quality in food has always had an enormous importance, as food is part of our culture.
I eat organic fruit and veg as the "regular" versions can bring on asthma. At first I found it very expensive until I discovered how cheap buying seasonally could be. It's easy to forget when strawberries are available all year round that they're best and cheapest when they come from your area. Take time to learn about what you're eating!
Are we all being a bit hasty? Iceland's overall sales are down because the market for organic foods is not yet as large as the market they reached with their previous offer, and because the people who used to shop there have been driven away. One store chain's poor marketing will only be the death-knell of organic produce if the media make people think it is.
There is no such thing as truly organic food. Pesticides and other man made chemicals (PCB's, etc.) have been around for so long that they are ever present in the food chain and cannot be removed - these chemicals are stored in the body fat of animals, and science has shown that they occur even in herbivorous animals at the lower end of the food chain, and at higher levels in animals, including man, at the higher stages of the food chain.
I tend to ignore organic foods as they are far too often imported from abroad and highly over-packaged. What is the point in buying a "good for the environment" product and then shipping it halfway across the world and smothering it in packaging? Personally I believe we should be directing our money towards free-range meat, raised locally. After all most food scares are centred around meat, not carrots! Support a good local butcher who buys local produce.
I can't believe how complacent people are about what they are eating and what they might be feeding their children. My family made a decision to eat as much organically grown food as possible. Just think about the chemicals used to produce our food - does anyone know the long-term effects of exposure to these products? Choosing organic food is not a "fad". It is the only way to ensure a "chemical-fee" way of life.
It's a sad state of affairs that "organic" has become yet another "luxury" item in the supermarket when in fact all our food should be prepared in this way. As we see more and more cases of BSE, problems with chicken supply and so on it appears that man is now paying the price for trying as hard as possible to profit from food and nature rather than treating it with the respect that it deserves. Our society will ultimately perish for our never ending greed.
Jon Livesey, USA
Why is there a lack of interest? Simple: for all the British public's posturing about the concerns over pesticides and GM crops, the deciding factor will always be cost. If GM foods were guaranteed to cost half as much as "normal" food, we would all love it and there would be no complaints.
Organic food in New Zealand is having the same problems, over-priced and poor quality and as for taste there is no difference. In any case the argument for organic food is false. If conventional food production is so bad for us why is the average age at death still rising and the general health of the population has never been better. I believe it is all a con trick.
I rarely buy organic because it appears that every other product now has that label attached to it and I doubt the value of things like "organic gin" (Yes!). There is too much hype; well-grown vegetables and meat will always be better than greenhouse crops or battery hens, but the whole organic things has got out of hand.
We grow our own vegetables because we like fresh food and because it is fun.
We don't shun normal hybrid varieties which are disease resistant and would buy GM stock on the same criteria.
We don't use too much insecticide, but when our tomatoes are being eaten by caterpillars, we have no choice.
Most of our organic waste including shredded paper goes to compost, but we use a bit of artificial fertiliser.
Most of the chattering classes that get emotional about so-called "organic" have never grown anything in their lives. When it costs them, they squeal!
I find organic food much harder to access to then the common packaged food products. As a health conscious person, I would buy certain organic foods, if they were only more accessible, better labelled, advertised, and packaged well.
This is not due to the fact that I am lazy and advertisement driven, but the fact it takes so much more effort to acquire organic foods.
We buy locally-grown organic vegetables through a box scheme. Yes, it is more expensive, but we get vegetables that are fresh - picked on Wednesday, with us on Thursday. The difference in taste, compared to supermarket vegetables, is worth paying for.
The problems with a lot of supermarket organic vegetables are that (a) it's not very fresh; (b) it's often grown abroad and shipped in (I note that Iceland said it had "40 per cent of the world's supplies"). Shipping or flying vegetables halfway round the world, even if it is "organic", seems rather to miss the point. Buy locally!
K. Sadler, UK
Organic foods seem to be expensive,
luxury items. There is no guarantee that
pesticides or GM pollen have not
blown in on the wind. As for the flavour,
you can't taste the difference in a
curry. Especially if you eat it quickly.
Like many people, I am a lazy shopper. Organic food still costs more and isn't as conveniently packaged. Furthermore, I can't say that I notice much difference in taste and finally, I live a moderately unhealthy lifestyle to which eating organic would make little or no difference!
Karen, UK <