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Friday, 23 June, 2000, 10:12 GMT 11:12 UK
Do you buy organic food?
UK supermarket chain Iceland says it has bought nearly 40% of the world's supply of organic crops in response to consumer demand.
From October, all frozen vegetables bought at its stores will be completely organic. They will be sold at the same price as average supermarket own-label products.
Has all the recent bad publicity about genetically modified produce put organic food at the top of your shopping list? Do you think it really is a healthier option, or has it just been an excuse for supermarkets to make more money? Have you gone organic?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Helen Weedon, UK
My husband and I buy as much as we can organically and where possible, ethically as well. It does cost a bit more, true, but the peace of mind you get from knowing you're not pumping chemicals into your body makes up for that.
I work for Sainsbury's, and I have to say that we sell a lot of organic produce. There are one or two customers that I am aware of that buy 100% organic food and other bits from, washing powder to corn flakes. In answer to Christine's question about packaging, the supermarkets wrap it up in so much packaging because to protect the product from bacteria, that is why Sainsbury's always recommend that you wash your vegetables and fruit that is loose before you eat it.
I have been buying organic produce (including wines, chocolate, coffee and bread) for a few years now. Iceland did not pioneer the organic veg for the same price as normal veg - Tesco were doing that three years ago. But it is still worth doing and newsworthy - particularly if it isn't the farmers who are being hit by the cut in profit margins.
Why can't mass-produced fruit, meat and vegetables be Genetically Modified to taste more 'organic'?
About 18 months ago an "organic" supermarket opened up near to me. At first I just bought odds and ends I couldn't get in other shops. But now I've noticed a trend. If I start to use the "organic" version of a product I soon find I can't face the idea of going back to the "junk food" version that ordinary supermarkets sell. I find myself wondering how I ever put up with low quality processed foods for so many years.
Denis Murphy, UK
I wish the political and commercial establishment in this country had the courage and the will to be more embracing of organic foods and more sceptical toward GM and non-organic kinds. One has to wonder whose agenda is being followed when the latter is being touted over the former.
M. Vishnu, USA
Yes, to natural food that is produced. Buying organic food for health can be best. Food must be safe.
I have never found the option of organic food in the least bit attractive. In fact the few occasions when I have tasted it I found it unpalatable.
Conventional intensive production
depletes the soil and sprays fields
with chemical pesticides that
indiscriminately poison a wide range
of species. The run-offs
contaminate rivers and groundwater.
Nor is production higher than in
well-managed organic systems.
I'm fortunate to be able to afford the organic version, and where it is available, I usually go for it. Reasons for buying non-organic versions are usually based on packaging (I live on my own, and a family-sized package would go off before I'd finished it). The pricing of organic food is of course a nice little earner for the supermarkets and Joe Public hasn't any way of knowing if a purchase really is organic.
I don't care if it is a marketing ploy; if it gives me lower-cost organic vegetables of good quality I shall be delighted to give Iceland my support.
A glance at Iceland's share price in recent months will reveal the motive for this marketing ploy. Iceland is a second-rate player in the UK retail sector trying to find some niche that will differentiate it from the blue-chips. I suspect it will make little difference to Iceland's fortunes given the dismal nature of the remainder of its product range.
Once the chains have secured a large market for organic food, standards will slip and the word "organic" will come to mean nothing.
As a vegetarian, I find it hard enough to buy food suitable for me anyway, and with a lot of organic farmers using "blood and bone" fertilisers, this eliminates almost all organic food.
Paul Wheeler, England
I buy organic produce regularly. It often tastes better compared to regular foods. However, I am concerned about the impact of GM contamination and the effect on the organic produce market which could be devastated through government-sponsored pollution.
If consumers were fully aware of the fertilisers used for organic farming, they would go running back to conventional produce. This seems to be nothing more than a cynical marketing move on behalf of Iceland.
I always bought organic at home in the UK but here in the US, the organic range is dire. I always try to buy organic tinned tomatoes though. When we first moved here in January, I was struck by how dire some of my trusted pasta recipes tasted then I discovered that all but about 2 brands of tinned tomatoes had around 15-20% salt added to them.
I think that there is little difference between organic food and everyday food. I think that this whole craze is the supermarkets trying to cash in on a scare about processed foods.
I would really like to eat organic food, because I believe it's healthier when it doesn't contain pesticides and fertilisers. However, for now, in Portugal, these kind of goods are still rare and expensive, so it's almost impossible to afford it.
Iceland have found a useful niche to increase their share of the grocery market although this won't make me start shopping at Iceland (a local store might). I think anything that moves market share away from the Tescos and Asdas of this world is a good thing as it increases competition.
Anne Peck, UK
As a consumer, and an agricultural scientist, I do not, and will not buy organic food. I refuse to pay a premium for a product which has consistently been shown to be no better in terms of taste or nutrition to conventionally grown produce. I would even go as far to say that I would not eat organic produce, and definitely not feed it to my child due to the increased risks of food poisoning organisms on some organic produce.
So Iceland have bought up 40% of European production? I would say that is quite a chunk. I wonder if there will be enough land to grow huge amounts of organic produce if the entire population comes to expect it and consequently all the food retailers insist on buying only organic?
Dr Morgan who champions intensive farming and refers to imagined risks has obviously never heard of BSE and the human equivalent CJD. There is nothing imagined about that.
Who can really prove it is wholly organic, as you and I are just laymen in this? We do not grow the crops, neither are we there to ensure total organic treatment. However, in developing countries, GM crops are needed to tackle waning produce in the face of pest invasions and droughts, not for taste or health.
Steve Foley, England
At last a supermarket offering what the customer wants: organic food at acceptable prices. Now I WILL reward Iceland with my hard earned money. Other supermarkets take customers for a ride by charging such inflated prices for organic goods, and deserve to lose custom.
Organic fruit and veg is usually more expensive, and it's a bit galling to think that some of us can sit and argue about this, while others can't even afford to buy the basic, chemically treated goods.
We have been buying organic produce (and free-range antibiotic-free poultry) for some four years now. Quite apart from social and scientific/moral concerns, it just plain tastes better.
However I do acknowledge that organic produce can be expensive and many people can not afford it. I think this will change as demand increases, although it would also help if more organic food were home grown.
Jennifer Birrell, UK
Organic food is wasteful of land resources, prone to microbacterial infections and is not by default better quality than intensive farming produce. Indeed, its static nature implies that any currently beneficial products will soon be superceded by superior GM produce.
Yet again, farmers and the rural lobby come begging for aid. "I can't convert to organic because there's no government aid available - but I can't sell my existing crops," they moan.
I have been buying at Iceland for years, simply because they openly reject GM-food.
Iceland's stand in sourcing entirely organic vegetables is very brave and laudable.
Whereas the issue of whether Organic food is "better tasting" or "healthier for you" is a matter of subjective debate, there is no doubt that the practice of Organic farming is of great value to the land and countryside.
In the light of the government's recent admission that GM crops can affect any other crops anywhere, I don't see much point buying organic any more.
14 Jun 00 | UK
Iceland takes organic lead
03 Jan 00 | Sci/Tech
Organic food 'proven' healthier
07 Dec 99 | UK Politics
Organic farming receives cash boost
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