info4action archive


GE - Huge special feature on organic from Indy

read the highlights - otherwise very long and useful articles from the Inde

You have to use the price mechanism or the 
product will simply run out by 9am every morning

The Independent (London) September 21, 1999 SECTION: 
DEMAND. BYLINE: Oliver Tickell BODY: Organic foods are 
suddenly big business and every major supermarket is making 
its push into the sector. Organic bread, milk, pizza, 
chips, coffee, sandwiches, beef, lemons and even gin 
(though not yet the tonic) are finding their way onto the 
shelves, often in special sections occupying prime front-of-
store retail space. This, believe analysts, is the food 
market's prime growth area for the next year or two ahead. 

Competition is acute and no one can afford to be left 
behind. As the market for organic food and drink in the UK 
rises towards the pounds 1bn-a-year mark, Tesco, Waitrose, 
Sainsbury's, Safeway, Asda, Iceland and Marks & Spencer are 
all rolling out significant organic initiatives that will 
increase product choice and turnover. This October, 
Sainsbury's will be taking 20 per cent off organic 
groceries and increasing its organic range to 500 products 
in its 80 top stores -compared with just 10 products in 
1986 - while a core of 50 products will be in all its 416 
stores in the UK. This reflects the increase in its organic 
sales to pounds 2.5m a week, a 30 per cent increase since 
January. Waitrose, which has been in the organic market 
continuously since 1983, and currently holds the title as 
the leading supermarket in the organics field, already has 
500 product lines, and boasts the highest organic sales 
penetration in the UK through its 117 branches. And it is 
about to launch an organic home-delivery scheme, offering 
fixed-price salad, vegetable, fruit or mixed content boxes 
for nationwide delivery. "The resurgence in organic started 
three years ago," says Waitrose agronomist Alan Wilson. 

"People are simply becoming more aware of how their food 
is sourced and want to know where it comes from, and demand 
will only grow as society becomes more food literate. Our 
organic grocery sales have tripled in the last year, with 
baby foods now reaching 50 per cent. Twelve per cent of out 
total fruit and vegetable sales are organic as are 10 per 
cent of our dairy lines. Our customers can now buy nearly 
everything in organic. " The strength of Marks & Spencer in 
foods has always been in sandwiches and ready meals, and 
this is its main focus as it adds 100 organic products to 
its range, nearly quadrupling its size. M&S famously got 
out of the organic market in the early Nineties, but it 
says the market is "a lot stronger now" and expects it to 
stay that way. Asda is starting from a rather lower base - 
until September, only 96 of its 229 stores contained 
organic products. Now they are being introduced into every 
store in the country. "All the main food areas are 
represented," said a spokesman. "Over half of our organic 
sales are in fruit and veg but we want to spread into other 
grocery products and we will extend organics into our own 
label next year."

Iceland is also making a major foray into organics with 50 
"everyday" products such as bread, milk, frozen chips, 
pizza and digestive biscuits to be brought into its 763 
stores by Christmas. "We are probably behind on organic 
food," concedes managing director Russell Ford. "But we aim 
to catch up with a vengeance next year. We see this as 
very, very important, the major growth area in the food 
business." Iceland's problem has been that most of its 
customers are unable to pay hefty price premiums - which, 
its research shows, typically run at 50- 60 per cent. "Our 
customers told us they wanted organic food but they 
couldn't afford it," says Ford. "So our policy is to charge 
little or no organic premium - no more than 10 per cent more
than the non- organic equivalent. We believe that customers 
should be able to eat natural food, and simply having it on 
shelves does not do that - it has to be affordable."

But what does all this enthusiasm for organic food by 
multiple retailers mean for growers and producers? 
Competition for supply is every bit as acute as that for 
customers, and most organic food on supermarket shelves has 
to be imported to meet demand - 70 per cent on average, 
mainly from Belgium, Holland, Denmark (for dairy products) 
and other EU countries. But there is room for the UK's 
organic farmers to do well, too. Wheat, milk and fresh 
vegetables all win premium prices at the farm gate - in 
some cases as much as double the conventional price. The 
demand is also giving record numbers of farmers the 
confidence to commit to the three- year organic conversion 
to organic. Simon Tomlinson, chairman of both the Organic 
Livestock Marketing Co-operative and the Organic Milk 
Suppliers Co- operative, says that suppliers will have to 
stick together if they are to balance growth in supply and 
demand -and therefore maintain prices - over the long term. 
The alternative is a "devastating slump" a few years ahead 
that could knock the organic movement into reverse. Stores 
such as Waitrose, Sainsbury's and to a lesser extent 
Safeway have made long-term commitments and agreed prices 
with the organic co- ops for years ahead, giving much-needed
stability to the market. Waitrose's Organic Assistance 
Scheme gives suppliers who wish to convert to organic 
production both financial help and a guaranteed market, and 
Sainsbury's deal with OMSCo guarantees 29.5p a litre for 
organic milk for a rolling five-year period as production 
rises from 30 million litres in the current year to 155 
million litres in 2003-04. Waitrose and Sainsbury's are 
also directly supporting both salmon farmers in Orkney, and 
English apple growers through the difficult conversion 
period. However, Tomlinson fears that some new entrants 
into the organic market, who find the limited volumes of 
produce are already committed to established players, 
threaten to leave producers high and dry. "A lot of buyers 
are offering high prices for scarce product, but the danger 
is that they will fragment the marketing efforts of 

Low-price retailers such as Iceland, Tesco and Asda bring 
another kind of danger, Tomlinson believes, by using low 
prices to fuel demand too far in advance of supply, 
creating an unreal market that will ultimately let down 
consumers. "You have to use the price mechanism or the 
product will simply run out by 9am every morning," he says. 
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH LOAD-DATE: September 21, 1999  
[Entered September 21, 1999]
The Independent (London) September 21, 1999, Tuesday 
BODY: OVER THE past months Bob Kennard has been asking his 
customers what they think of him and he's found their 
responses highly gratifying. More than 98 per cent say they 
would buy from him again and 86 per cent described his 
produce as "excellent". But his favourite reply was from an 
elderly lady and it concerned his chicken. She declared 
that she hadn't tasted anything like it since 1943."We're 
quite proud of that letter," he says. Mr Kennard is one of 
a rapidly growing band of producers who have realised the 
potential of organic meat. From his base at Graig Farm in 
the Welsh hills near Llandrindod Wells, he supplies 
retailers and also operates a mail order and delivery 
service, specialising in a range of high quality produce 
from Speckles and Derbyshire Gritstones (breeds of sheep) 
to what is said to be the world's first organically 
registered wild fish, imported from the British island of 
St Helena in the south Atlantic. He hasn't regretted his 
decision to go organic: during the past three years his 
business has been growing at an annual rate of 60 per cent. 
Organic meat represents a tiny fraction of the organic 
market - five per cent, according to the Soil Association's 
organic food and farming report, compared with 54 per cent 
for fruit and vegetables - but it is busy catching up. By 
next year, compared with 1997, organic beef output will 
have more than trebled, lamb production will be up nearly 
sevenfold and pig output will have increased more than 
ninefold. The reasons for the growth are not hard to come 
by. It's the industry's boast that BSE has never occurred 
in an animal reared on an organic farm, and the BSE crisis 
is one factors driving consumer demand for organic meat, 
which is in turn driving the supermarkets to demand it. 

Concerns about antibiotic residues in conventionally 
produced meat look certain to fuel further growth. 

Although, as Mr Kennard says, there's not much magic or 
mystery about organic meat - it's the way livestock farming 
used to be, before it began relying on drugs, chemicals and 
factory units - the legal definitions introduced by the EU 
in the early Nineties have given the market stability and 
confidence, and they have also persuaded the supermarkets 
that organic meat is here to stay. But for many meat 
eaters, it's the taste that seems to matter. Much 
mass-produced meat, complain the cognoscenti, tastes like 
polystyrene. By contrast, Mr Kennard speaks of vanished 
delicacies such as "salt-marsh lamb", so- called because of 
the wild marshland herbs the animals fed on while grazing. 

The taste of meat, he says, has been shown to improve with 
age, but conventional meat producers slaughter their 
animals young. It's also dependent on diet and exercise. So 
it's perhaps not surprising that a chicken which forages 
for its food and picks up a range of trace nutrients from 
grasses and soils will taste better than one living 
virtually immobile in a battery unit and subsisting on 
standardised feed. It's not all rosy for organic producers, 
however. The Government is introducing new veterinary 
inspection standards for abattoirs that will, the organic 
movement argues, result in the closure of hundreds of small 
local slaughter houses and may make it impossible for many 
smaller farmers now considering the switch to make a 
living. They are based on European rules but no other 
European country is said to be implementing them so 
harshly. If these reforms go ahead, producers say, the 
dream of a local organic economy, supplying meat on a small 
scale to high street butchers and farmers' markets -not 
merely on a large scale to the supermarkets - could prove 
stillborn. GRAPHIC: Organic Shorthorn cattle in Dorset. 

Organically farmed meat is proving increasingly popular 
Rex Interstock LANGUAGE: ENGLISH LOAD-DATE: September 21, 
1999 [Entered September 21, 1999]
The Independent (London) September 21, 1999, Tuesday 
It is a truism that organic food is good for you - purer, 
more wholesome and healthier than its conventional 
equivalent. Lady Eve Balfour, a founder of the Soil 
Association in 1946, wrote of how "the health of soil, 
plant, animal and man is one and indivisible". Organic 
food, grown without chemicals and fertilisers within a 
natural farming cycle, would enhance the health of the land 
that produced it, and those who ate it. This message has 
been accepted without question by consumers, many of whom 
choose organic produce primarily for health reasons. 

Indeed, health is the main motivation for 70 per cent of 
organic food customers in Germany, and for 46 per cent in 
the UK. The health argument is twofold. First, to avoid the 
negatives of conventional farming. Organic crops are grown 
without synthetic insecticides, fungicides, herbicides, 
molluscides, growth regulators and other chemicals that are 
used routinely on most farms, and they are stored without 
additional agro-toxins. Ten or more applications of 
chemicals over a growing season would not be unusual for 
many crops, followed by further dosing to prevent spoilage 
in store. Concerns about chemical contamination have been 
given weight by the UK Pesticide Safety Directorate's 
annual review of pesticide residues in food, published last 
Thursday. Of the 2,500 samples taken in 1998, 25 per cent 
included detectable residues of pesticide and 1.4 per cent 
exceeded government-defined Minimum Residue Levels (MRLs). 

Particularly bad were pears, many of which contained the 
unlicensed growth regulator chlormequat; and winter lettuce,
which contained the unlicensed fungicide iprodione and the 
organophosphate (OP) insecticide malathion. One tin of 
corned beef contained the insecticide DDT, banned across 
the EU as a persistent bio-accumulative carcinogen. 

Lindane, another carcinogen, was found in a bar of dark 
chocolate. Peter Beaumont, director of the Pesticides 
Trust, believes that the short-term dangers to health are 
small, as the actual amounts of pesticide involved are 
small. However, he adds, there can be wide variations among 
individual vegetables, leading to higher potential dosages. 
Of two carrots grown in the same field, one may contain 30 
times more pesticide than another. "The average level may 
be safe, but eat three 'hot' carrots and you may get a bad 
tummy ache. Many pesticides such as the OPs work in the 
same way, and the toxic effects are additive."

Another concern is the widespread use of antibiotics in 
animal feeds to increase growth rates, as they encourage the
spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria which may go on to 
cause disease in humans. By contrast organic livestock may 
only be given antibiotics medicinally. Growth hormones are 
also used in conventional farms to make animals put on 
weight fast - and residues in food can potentially affect 
those who eat them. Again, such hormones are banned on 
organic farms. Organic food is also seen as carrying a 
lower risk of BSE infection - a reasonable supposition 
since no organically bred and reared cattle in the UK have 
ever developed the disease. People are also going organic 
to avoid genetically modified material, which is strictly 
forbidden in organic foods. While there is no firm evidence 
that GM foods are a danger to health, nor is there any firm 
evidence that they are safe. Rather harder to pin down are 
the positive perceptions of organic food: that it is richer 
in minerals and vitamins, and that it encapsulates a more 
vigorous "life force" which can be transferred to its 
eater. Neither the Ministry of Agriculture, the Department 
of Health, the Soil Association, nor the Henry Doubleday 
Research Association (HDRA), Britain's premier organic 
research body, could point to any specific evidence of the 
health- enhancing (or detracting) qualities of organic food.
However the Putney-based Institute for Optimum Nutrition had
some information to offer. Its nutritionist Yara D'Avella 
quotes a study by Bob Smith (Journal of Applied Nutrition, 
1993) of foods bought in Chicago shops, which showed that 
organic pears, apples, potatoes and wheat contained nearly 
double the nutritional minerals, and smaller amounts of 
toxic metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium. Lawrence 
Woodward, director of the Elm Farm Research Centre near 
Newbury, cites a 1997 review of 150 investigations 
(1926-1994) on the subject carried out by Germany's Federal 
Institute for Health Protection of Consumers. The study 
concludes that organic produce contains less nitrate, 
especially in leaf vegetables; however, organic cereals 
contained less protein. Food selection experiments showed 
that animals "prefer organic produce". [nb - I have read lots of accounts of
animals avoiding GM crops such as sugarbeet, maize, etc.] A paper presented
an Elm Farm colloquium in 1989 confirms such findings. 

Ludwig Maurer, director of the Boltzman Institute for 
Biological Agriculture in Austria, showed that rabbits and 
hens preferred organic produce. So, such evidence as exists 
does seem to indicate that organic food is better for 
health. But given the importance of the subject and the 
high level of public interest in it, the state of knowledge 
is patchy - indeed it is, says HDRA director Jackie Gear, a 
"public scandal". GRAPHIC: Not so dusty: organic foods are 
free of artificial pesticides; Aldus LANGUAGE: ENGLISH 
LOAD-DATE: September 21, 1999 [Entered September 
21, 1999]
The Independent (London) September 21, 1999 SECTION: 

BYLINE: David Nicholson-Lord BODY: Organic farming used to 
be denigrated as "all muck and magic" - a primitive 
combination of superstition and gobbledegook hopelessly out 
of place in a world of giant farms and modern 
agri-business. But perhaps the most telling criticism was 
that it was not, and could never be, economic. How could 
such a system - apparently eschewing all the innovations 
that produced a new era of cheap food and made British 
farming the most efficient in Europe - ever hope to feed 
the world? With farmers falling over themselves to convert 
to organic and some experts predicting that up to 30 per 
cent of Britain's agricultural land could be farmed 
organically in a decade from now - the current proportion 
is about 1.5 per cent - such strictures are beginning to 
look a little hollow. We're also far more aware of the true 
costs of our "efficient" agriculture: not least a 
devastated countryside. Take that symbol of the small- 
scale British rural landscape, the hedgerow. Forty per cent 
of our hedgerows have vanished in the past half-century, 
enough, it has been calculated, to stretch four times round 
the world. They are still disappearing at the rate of 
10,000 miles a year, and with them birds and insects that 
were characteristic of traditional farmland - the 
corncrake, for example - have dwindled near, and sometimes 
beyond, the point of extinction. You can't, of course, put 
a value on the corncrake, or on the (now extinct) 
short-haired bumble bee. But there are other 
back-of-envelope calculations that you can make. Over the 
past 10 years, for example, the water industry has invested 
an extra pounds 31bn on cleaning our water supplies. It is 
a cost which customers have paid through increased bills but
for which conventional farming, as one of the main sources 
of water pollution, particularly pesticides, is partly 
responsible. There's also the steady rise in food 
poisoning, blamed by many on intensive food production and 
thought to cost between pounds 1bn and pounds 3bn each 
year. There's the pounds 4bn bill for the BSE crisis, 
picked up directly by the taxpayer. According to Dr Carlo 
Leifert, of Aberdeen University's Centre for Organic 
Research, if that pounds 4bn had been spent subsidising 
organic meat sales over the past decade, it would have been 
cheaper than factory-farmed meat. There's no doubt that 
conventional farming carries an often invisible price tag 
and that organic farming is far kinder to the environment. 

But will it be able to cope with supplying much more - 
possibly most - of our food without a lasting increase in 
prices? The best answer is that we don't know yet. In fact, 
we can't know, because there has never been a fair 
comparison between the two types of farming - but there 
seems no overwhelming reason why it should not. The 
equations are complex, however. Most studies which have 
tried to compare the two systems as they operate in Western 
Europe suggest that crop yields are between 20 and 40 per 
cent less in organic farming; equally many of the overheads 
- notably chemicals and fertilisers - are lower. Labour 
costs are higher - up to 30 per cent more people are needed 
to work organic farms - but this may count as a social 
benefit: one could equally say that organic farming creates 
jobs. A recent 10-year study in the US showed only one per 
cent difference in maize yields between organic and 
conventional farming, although there were major differences 
in environmental impact. Soil fertility increased 
dramatically under organic management but declined in the 
industrial trial. According to a recent study by Greenpeace 
and the Soil Association, comparisons are impossible 
because of the small sums spent on organic research. Even 
now, despite the organic renaissance, the Ministry of 
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) still spends 60 
times more on research into conventional farming. The 
potential of modern organic farming is thus "largely 
unrealised", the study argues. Dr Nic Lampkin, an organic 
agriculture specialist at the Welsh Institute of Rural 
Studies, also points out that Western European comparisons 
may not apply elsewhere. In other parts of the world 
organic yields are as high or higher than conventional 
systems. Dr Lampkin argues that poor farmers in developing 
countries cannot afford expensive feedstocks and chemicals, 
and that the damage caused by industrial farming means that 
simply transferring it from the developed to the developing 
world - what one authority has called "saving the planet 
with pesticides and plastic" - is "not a sustainable 
option". The effect on prices and food security are 
difficult to assess, however. The world, overall, isn't 
short of food - malnutrition in developing countries is the 
result of a complex mix of economic and social factors. In 
Europe, indeed, we are over-producing: governments are 
trying to get 10 per cent of arable land taken out of 
production. Last year pounds 76m was paid to farmers in 
England and Wales to "set aside" their land - a form of 
indirect subsidy to environmental protection which many 
argue would be better spent on support for organic farming. 
Some experts also believe that widespread adoption of 
organic farming might generate more home-grown food in 
Europe. Land in developing countries now used to grow cash 
crops for export to the West would then be freed for 
production for local people. Given the premium prices now 
being paid for organic produce, according to MAFF, most 
types of farm would benefit if they switch from 
conventional to organic. As organic production expands, 
this premium may disappear - and prices should fall. But if 
they don't, and the era of cheap food recedes into the 
past, is this necessarily a bad thing? We may end up paying 
more for our food, but less to repair the damage to our 
health and environment. Dr Lampkin believes that a 
large-scale switch to organic could produce better incomes 
for all farmers and that this can be achieved without 
compromising international food security. Conventional 
producers, "far from being threatened by organic farming, 
should welcome its widespread adoption with open arms". 

LANGUAGE: ENGLISH LOAD-DATE: September 21, 1999  
[Entered September 21, 1999]
The Independent (London) September 21, 1999, Tuesday 
Phil Haughton's abiding memories is the day he turned a 
consignment of ex-pet shop guinea pigs into fresh meat. It 
happened when he was manager of the Windmill Hill City Farm 
in Bristol and it created, not surprisingly, something of a 
stir. He did it, he says, to demonstrate that people were 
becoming too distant from the food they eat. More than 15 
years later, his enthusiasm for local produce remains 
undimmed. Phil is the founder and head of the Better Food 
Company, which delivers organic produce in boxes to 
households within a 30- mile radius of Bristol. The company 
employs more than 20 people, has a turnover of less than 
pounds 1m and until not so long ago operated from a kitchen 
in the family home. It is, in short, a small business but 
it is also typical of a retailing revolution which is 
distinctive to organic food but now promises to spread far 
beyond it. Last year the Better Food Company won the 
national vegetable box scheme category in the Soil 
Association's Organic Food Awards. As well as supplying 
local households it operates an overnight national delivery 
service and a Christmas hamper selection. Its boxes of 
produce are sourced from local growers and supplemented by 
deliveries from a big co-operative in Gloucestershire. Up 
in Bridgefoot, near Aberdeen, a slightly different pattern 
prevails. Twelve years ago Colin Ward, another award 
winner, fulfilled his dream of running a small farm when he 
was able buy the 17 acres of land next to his house. From 
the food grown there he now supplies 100 households locally 
with a box of fresh seasonal vegetables every Friday 
between July and February. All the boxes are different, 
since customers can specify what they want and how much 
they feel like spending, but they're straight from the soil 
- the lettuces and salad leaves are cut immediately before 
packing. The organic boom, in the views of experts, can't 
and won't progress without the giants of retailing, the 
supermarkets. According to one recent market analysis, the 
presence of a major supermarket "is vital to make the foods 
widely available to the public"; the marketing support 
supermarkets can supply is "crucial" in raising public 
awareness of organic foods. But it wouldn't have got off 
the ground without small, evangelical entrepreneurs like 
Phil Haughton and Colin Ward. There are an estimated 200 
vegetable box schemes in the UK, delivering to between 
30,000 and 40,000 customers and involving about 30 per cent 
of the country's organic growers. Virtually all have sprung 
up since the late Eighties and together with farm-gate 
sales and farmers' markets they now account for roughly a 
fifth of the sales of organic foods, far more than is the 
case with conventional foods and highly unusual in 
retailing. Supermarkets account for over two-thirds of 
sales, a proportion that has been rising fast, and 
independent outlets for about one tenth. But the humble 
vegetable box represents more than an attempt simply to 
supply fresh food directly from producers to consumers. It 
is seen as one way of reinvigorating the local economy and 
turning back the tide of globalisation that has washed over 
the world in the past two decades - bringing with it, for 
many communities, job losses, bank closures, and the 
leaching out of economic wealth. It is part of a wider 
movement that has seen the sometimes phenomenal growth of 
credit unions - a form of self-help alternative to banks - 
local exchange and trading systems (LETS), where people 
exchange skills and services instead of money, and many 
other forms of economic DIY. Globalisation has had a 
significant impact on food, where, critics argue, it has 
destroyed seasonality, disconnected people from farming and 
vastly increased the "food miles" total - the distance food 
travels from farm to plate - at a high environmental cost. 

Repairing this damage accords with two of the organic 
movement's important principles - working in locally 
organised agricultural systems and taking account of the 
social and ecological impact of farming methods. Box 
schemes are one part of this local food economy, which is 
known generically as "community supported agriculture". 

Others are food co -operatives, community- owned farms and 
gardens, allotments, farmers' markets and local cooking 
businesses. In the UK, the number of farmers' markets, 
where producers sell direct to customers, has increased 
dramatically in the past few years. There are now 120 of 
them, held regularly from Penzance in Cornwall to Perth in 
Scotland. Many local authorities are helping to establish 
farmers' markets as part of their sustainable development 
strategy, known as Local Agenda 21 since being agreed at 
the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. In Bath, a pilot 
market was set up by the city council and the Bath 
Environment Centre in 1997, with up to 30 farmers and 
producers selling to 3,000 customers every month. The 
stallholders have now formed their own association and hold 
the market fortnightly. Community-supported agriculture 
began in Japan 30 years ago - it was known as teikei, 
meaning "putting the farmers' face on food" - and more 
recently has spread to the US and Europe, notching up 
remarkable growth. In 1990 there were about 60 such schemes 
in the US, mainly "subscription farming" in which customers 
commit themselves to buying produce from a local grower: 
the grower receives a fair price, the customer can even 
help out with the harvest. Today there are more than 1,000 
involving over 100,000 families. And with support from the 
National Lottery Charities Board, the Soil Association is 
now setting up 15 Food Futures projects around the UK - all 
aimed at generating new networks for producing and selling 
food. Three are already operating, in Leicestershire, 
Cumbria and Powys. The doorstep economy has pointed a 
different way forward for local producers. So far, at 
least, it's proving extraordinarily popular. GRAPHIC: Phil 
Houghton (left) of the Better Food Company, and Colin Ward, 
owner of Bridgefoot farm in Aberdeen Rex Interstock 
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH LOAD-DATE: September 21, 1999  
[Entered September 21, 1999]
The Independent (London) September 21, 1999, Tuesday 
BODY: Craig Sams is a man of many parts. Inventor of the 
Herbal Burble soft drink, once-contributor to Oz magazine 
and founder of Yin Yang, London's first macrobiotic 
restaurant, he takes his guardianship of good food very 
seriously indeed. Once, after the Chernobyl nuclear 
disaster, he bought a radioactivity testing machine to 
analyse the becquerel levels of imported hazelnuts. 

Officials assured him the nuts weren't radioactive. The 
machine said otherwise. Mr Sams, American- born and 
educated but a British resident since the Sixties, has 
often been proved right since. In 1967, when he started Yin 
Yang, macrobiotics were labelled, by one Harvard authority, 
the "hippie death diet", and the FBI raided and closed down 
the macrobiotic book shop in New York for preaching the 
message that cancer might be prevented by a healthy diet. 

We now know this to be true - indeed a leading Harvard 
nutritionist was recently advocating a largely macrobiotic 
diet. But if wholefood has come a long way in the last 
three decades, so has Mr Sams. Yin Yang closed not long 
after it opened, but in 1967 Mr Sams also founded Whole 
Earth Foods, which in the UK helped pioneer the 
introduction of a mass audience to healthy eating. 

Operating from London's Portobello Road, Whole Earth and 
its related companies makes a range of products from 
breakfast cereals to canned foods. It is probably best 
known for its peanut butters (hence his concern for 
radioactive nuts) and fruit spreads - one of which was 
prosecuted in the Seventies because it contained no sugar. 

More recently, in 1991, Mr Sams, with his wife, Jo 
Fairley, co-founded Green and Black's Organic Chocolate, 
makers of Maya Gold, the first "fair -trade" chocolate in 
the UK. But his most radical move was probably in the 
Eighties. Back in the Sixties, he explains, macrobiotics - 
the brown rice and lentils of folk memory - fuelled the 
wholefood movement. In the Seventies Whole Earth sold 
mainly grains and pulses, and preached the message that all 
food should be home- made. The move into food processing 
was thus a major departure - but necessary, if eating 
habits were to be influenced. And Mr Sams believes those 
eating habits are now in the process of "irreversible" 
change. "We had a letter last week from a family saying 
they had started just eating organic, they had known about 
it for years and they didn't know why it had taken so long 
for the penny to drop. That's happening in household after 
household across the country. It isn't just a passing fad - 
it's a one-way valve. It's part of a sea change in beliefs, 
towards more holistic and self-dependent attitudes. "People 
are taking control of things like their health. The urban 
masses are getting back to their roots, they're connecting 
back to what they're eating. And that's what the big guys 
have recognised now."

By big guys, Mr Sams means both the major supermarket 
chains, many of which are now launching own-label organic 
brands, and multinational food manufacturers such as 
Unilever, Heinz and Mars, which are researching and 
developing organic products. Hence, in part, his decision 
to move up a league. Success, and rapid growth, has brought 
problems of management and financing. This year Mr Sams and 
his family sold out their controlling interest in Whole 
Earth, Green and Blacks and Gusto to the management team 
responsible for the success of the New Covent Garden Soup 
Company. "Five or even three years ago a business in this 
environment had to be driven by a personal vision, but we 
now have a shared vision here. You can't go around saying 
we want the world to go organic and on the other hand say 
not yet, because I've got a business that might get 
squeezed out. It's one of those things that crusading comes 
up against. It's part of going mainstream."

GRAPHIC: Craig Sams with some of his fair trade suppliers 
in Belize LANGUAGE: ENGLISH LOAD-DATE: September 21, 1999  
[Entered September 21, 1999]
The Independent (London) September 21, 1999, Tuesday 
BODY: INFORMATION ON vegetable box schemes, farmers' 
markets, local food links and organic suppliers can be 
obtained from the Soil Association's directory, which costs 
pounds 5. Membership of the association costs pounds 18. In 
a special promotion for Independent readers, they will 
receive a free directory if they join. The Soil 
Association's address is Bristol House, 40-56 Victoria 
Street, Bristol BS1 6BY, tel 0117 929 0661
<> Many 
supermarkets stock organic produce. Phone for details: Asda 
0113 2435435; Co-op 01706 713000; Iceland 01244 842842; 
Marks & Spencer 0171 935 4422; Safeway 01622 712987; 
Sainsbury's 0171 695 6000; Tesco 0800 505555; Waitrose 0800 
188884 Useful websites: <http://www/>www. organicsdirect.

organicfood. <> LANGUAGE:
LOAD-DATE: September 21, 1999 [Entered September 21, 
The Independent (London) September 21, 1999, Tuesday 
Nicholson-Lord BODY: Organic is a word whose time has come. 
You can even buy a shampoo of that name which promises to 
penetrate your hair roots with ingredients "essential in 
nature for true shine". Look at the label, however, and you 
will stumble across a bewildering list of largely 
unpronounceable chemical ingredients. So what is exactly is 
an organic product? Health and beauty is one of the areas 
where until now nobody has thought it necessary to say what 
we mean by organic. But " organic" has turned into a highly 
charged word. It has come to signify not merely how a 
product is produced and manufactured but a way of looking 
at the world. And with anything organic now apparently able 
to command an enthusiastic consumer response and a sizeable 
market premium, the word needs protection. The Soil 
Association, Britain's main organic certifying body, is 
currently trying to decide on a code for the health and 
beauty business, particular products like herbal medicines 
and supplements, which would for the first time determine 
what can and cannot be described as organic. In food, 
organic means that no artificial chemical fertilisers and 
pesticides have been used in production. Organic farmers 
place the emphasis on soil health, rotating crops and using 
animal manure. Animals are reared without the drugs, 
antibiotics and growth-promoters that are now routine in 
conventional livestock farming. Animal welfare standards are
high - animals have access to fields and generous space 
inside. Not only is organic food free of genetically 
modified ingredients but certain processes, such as 
irradiation, hydrogenation and fumigation, are also banned. 
Much of this is now governed by law, specifically an EU 
regulation of 1991 which built on existing schemes, and 
enforced by trading standards officers. In the UK, the 
Register of Organic Food Standards (UKROFS), which is part 
of the Ministry of Agriculture, oversees the bodies charged 
with the task of setting standards and certifying that 
products comply with the regulations. The Soil Association 
is the major standard-setting body; the others are the 
Organic Food Federation, Organic Farmers and Growers, the 
Biodynamic Agricultural Association, the Scottish Organic 
Producers' Association, and Irish Organic Farmers and 
Growers. Under EU law, processed foods described directly 
as organic must have a minimum of 95 per cent organic 
ingredients by weight. If a product contains between 70 and 
95 per cent of organic ingredients, it can be labelled 
"Made with Organic Ingredients", with the actual percentage 
listed. Yet arguments have always raged about what 
constitutes organic produce. And with organic food sweeping 
all before it at present, there are fears that standards 
may be diluted in an attempt to allow in bigger food 
producers and processors. A storm of controversy greeted 
recent proposals by the US Department of Agriculture to 
allow the use of toxic sludge and genetically modified 
organisms in organic farming and although the proposals 
were dropped, the USDA then published new ones which would 
allow many industrial farming practices, including routine 
antibiotic use, to be classed as organic. Consumers buying 
organic food can also be confident that their choice has 
wider environmental benefits - research has shown that the 
mixed habitats favoured by organic farmers, coupled with 
the absence of chemicals, is good for wildlife. Central to 
the organic vision is the idea that a healthy nature - and 
particularly a healthy soil - produces healthy food and 
healthy consumers. Or, as the first organic standards laid 
down by the Soil Association in 1967 declared, "The use of, 
or abstinence from, any particular practice should be 
judged by its effect on the well-being of the micro- 
organic life of the soil, on which the health of the 
consumer ultimately depends."

GRAPHIC: Organic products conform to strict EU standards 
Rex LANGUAGE: ENGLISH LOAD-DATE: September 21, 1999  
[Entered September 21, 1999]

The Independent (London) September 21, 1999
BYLINE: David Nicholson-Lord 
BODY: It's harvest time in the world of 
agriculture, and in the infinitely smaller world of organic 
agriculture, it promises to be the best in living memory. 
The growing army of farmers, food manufacturers and 
retailers who count themselves among the UK's organic 
movement have nominated October as Organic Harvest Month 
and will be asking consumers to eat at least one 
chemical-free breakfast next month to "taste the 
difference". If recent experience is anything to go by, 
people won't need too much encouraging. The organic food 
business is booming, in a way that would have seemed 
improbable a decade ago and inconceivable a generation ago. 
Industry reports tell a consistent story of accelerating 
consumer demand, rocketing sales, proliferating outlets, 
and new allies in powerful places - not least some of the 
big supermarket chains. They also give a remarkably uniform 
account of what has fuelled the boom - loss of confidence 
among consumers in what the Soil Association, the leading 
promoter of organic food in the UK, calls the "integrity" 
of the (conventional) food supply system. But popularity 
has also brought problems, chiefly high prices and rising 
imports. It's all a question of supply and demand: in the 
UK at least - where the organic star has risen much later 
than in many of our European neighbours - our new- found 
appetite for organic food is not matched by our production 
of it. An estimated 70 per cent of the stuff we eat is, 
therefore, imported, mainly from Germany, Holland and Italy. 
Organic food has been on something of a roll since the late 
Eighties, when Britain appeared to rediscover 
environmentalism and green consumerism was born, but the 
current boom is more recent in origin. Datamonitor, the 
market research firm, puts the take-off date at 1996, since 
when consumer demand and retailer investment have together 
produced a doubling in market size. Last year the UK market 
was worth around pounds 340 million; by 2002 it is expected 
to be 7-8 per cent of the total food market, with a 
potential retail value of over pounds 1bn. But it's a 
European phenomenon too. Sales of organic food in Western 
Europe have grown by 70 per cent since 1994: the forecast 
this year is a total of pounds 3.3bn. Health-conscious 
Germany is the biggest market but Austrians, who grow the 
most, also eat the most - a pointer for Britain, no doubt, 
where we currently grow the least. It's intriguing to 
speculate on why affluent, urban, industrial Europe has 
suddenly been seized by the same collective passion. 
Datamonitor gives four main reasons. First, organic food 
fits into the wider trend towards healthier food; it can be 
both low-fat and fortified with vitamins and minerals. It 
has a high level of natural nutrients that are often lost in 
the heavy processing of conventional food and drinks. Many 
consumers believe it's safer to eat because it is free of 
pesticide residues and definitively not genetically 
modified. And many also feel it's "morally correct" to eat 
organic food as the farming system that produces it is 
based on good ecology and animal welfare. One might also 
add that the controversy over genetically modified food, 
which has blown up over the past couple of years, has 
thrown new light on the whole question of food purity and 
environmental well-being. A survey last year found that 78 
per cent of us want to buy food grown without pesticides, 
herbicides or fertilisers, indicating, as the Soil 
Association argues, tremendous support for the organic food 
sector, in principle at least. Most consumers - 83 per 
cent, according to a poll by the Consumers' Association - 
buy organic to avoid pesticides. This is followed by 75 per 
cent who do so because it's kinder to the environment, 70 
per cent who are worried about the intensive rearing of 
animals, 68 per cent who think it tastes better, 40 per 
cent who want to support local farmers and 36 per cent who 
are worried about BSE. And health concerns also topped the 
list in a MORI poll, which found that six out of 10 people 
would buy organic food if it was easily available and cost 
no more than conventional food. Across Europe, in fact, the 
organic "premium" - the price difference compared with 
similar conventional products -averages out at 30 per cent, 
according to Datamonitor. For some products it rises to 100 
per cent - double the conventional price. Small wonder that 
the organic consumer is an affluent, professional type 
-typically an AB, aged between 25 and 34, and shopping at 
the upper end of the supermarket spectrum, notably Waitrose 
or Sainsbury's. Moral correctness, it seems, can't be 
underestimated but takes second place, in an age of food 
controversies, to self- preservation, even when it carries 
a significant price tag. The BSE crisis, which has now 
spanned more than a decade but has several years left to 
run, has imprinted itself on the national psyche but it was 
merely the most serious in a run of controversies about the 
state of our food chain. Remember the Listeria-in-cheese 
and the Salmonella-in-eggs crises of the Eighties? And 
though it used to be fashionable to label all these 
episodes food "scares" - implying that they were examples 
of baseless consumer panic, driven by a sensation-hungry 
media - there are now clear signs that the tide has begun 
to turn. The apologists for conventional food production 
are in retreat and their critics are on the attack. It's 
not just that organic farming, as espoused by both Tony and 
Pat Archer in the Radio 4 agri-soap and even more famously 
by the Prince of Wales on his Highgrove estate in 
Gloucestershire, has become suddenly high-profile. It's also 
that the facts, as they emerge, seem to be gradually 
proving the critics right. To the BSE crisis, for example, 
one can add the epidemic of food poisoning, which has risen 
inexorably over the past three decades. Cases of 
salmonella, for example, are up from around 5,000 a year in 
1965, and 25,000 in the late Eighties, to 40,000 today. In 
1997 reported cases of food poisoning exceeded 100,000 for 
the first time - although the real, unreported figure is 
likely to be many times higher. Research which has begun to 
emerge in the Nineties has also shown that many chemicals, 
including many of the pesticides and herbicides in common 
use, have a previously undetected capacity to act as 
endocrine-disrupters, upsetting our hormonal, reproductive 
and immune systems and, for instance, damaging our 
fertility. The main source of such endocrine disrupters is 
diet and they appear to cause damage even though they are 
present only at the smallest concentrations, often near the 
limits of detection. And most recently, the antibiotics and 
growth- promoters which are used routinely throughout 
conventional livestock rearing and battery farming have 
come under intensive scrutiny. Last month, the first 
Government advisory committee to report on the subject for 
30 years warned that there was now conclusive evidence that 
giving antibiotics to animals produces antibiotic-resistant 
bacteria which go on to infect humans through the food they 
eat. The overuse of antibiotics in the food chain, 
according to the advisory committee on the Microbiological 
Safety of Food, could soon leave doctors powerless to treat 
extreme cases of the UK's most common food pathogens, such 
as salmonella, campylobacter and E coli. Yet this is 
precisely what organic food producers have been saying 
since the Fifties, when the practice first began, and why 
organic farmers are allowed to use antibiotics to treat ill 
animals, but are barred under Soil Association standards 
from routinely giving them to healthy ones. Organic farmers 
also have to practise husbandry that minimises the chances 
of illness -which in practice means better welfare - and to 
use alternative treatments, such as homeopathy, where these 
are known to be effective. According to the association, 
the threat to human health posed by antibiotic resistance 
transferring from farm animals is "infinitely greater" than 
that posed by BSE. Six of the antibiotics in question have 
been banned by EU farm ministers this year. Sweden has gone 
even further, banning routine antibiotic use in farming. 
However, the association believes that conventional 
farmers will merely switch to other drugs. According to 
Richard Young, the author of a recent Soil Association 
report on antibiotic resistance, we face a "major epidemic" 
of drug-resistant diseases, at least four of which, those 
involved in food poisoning, "arise directly as a result of 
the overuse of antibiotics in agriculture". Officialdom has 
now begun to respond to these concerns. The decision to 
establish an independent Food Standards Agency was a 
recognition that consumers needed reassurance about the 
quality of the food chain and no longer trusted Government 
to provide it. And both Conservative and Labour have 
introduced new packages of aid to encourage farmers to 
embark on the lengthy and uncertain business of converting 
from conventional to organic agriculture, a process which 
takes between two and five years. The organic aid scheme 
was launched in 1994 and improved most recently last April. 
It has been backed up by an organic conversion information 
scheme introduced in 1996. Unfortunately, in the views of 
many campaigners, it's not only very late -it's much too 
little. As might have been predicted, given the current 
crisis in British farming and the boom in organic markets, 
the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF) has 
been trampled underfoot in the rush for conversion money 
and funds for this year have already run out. About 10 per 
cent of all farmers have called the Organic Conversion 
Information Service in the past three years. And since 
Government funds were already fairly meagre - pounds 8.5m, 
compared with the pounds 52m spent last year by MAFF on 
research into genetic food - the organic lobby argues that 
it has once again been the victim of the anti- organic bias 
that has characterised MAFF policy since the 1945. Only 
recently have the organic conversion payments been jacked 
up to the levels paid to farmers for conversion in the rest 
of Europe. When the scheme was first introduced in the UK 
the levels were a third of those in Europe. And very little 
is being spent by MAFF on organic research - just pounds 
2.2m a year in the Nineties. According to Helen Browning, 
chairwoman of the Soil Association, the inadequate funding 
of the conversion scheme means the Government has lost a 
"crucial opportunity to revitalise the beleaguered farming 
industry in this country in a sector where the potential is 
obvious to everyone". She finds it hard to understand the 
disparity in funding between biotechnology and organic 
research. "Surely the public have made it clear by now that 
they want organic food not GM technology?" Hence, although 
land being organically farmed or under conversion to 
organic farming has shown a dramatic leap over the past 
year, it is still, at 1.5 per cent of the total 
agricultural area, a tiny proportion and much less than in 
most European countries. More than a tenth of the 
agricultural area of Austria is organically farmed, for 
example. Yet there's little doubt that we wouldn't have 
achieved even this much if it had been left to governments. 
As it was, the success of hundreds of organic entrepreneurs 
in setting up direct links between producers and consumers 
-through doorstep deliveries of organic fruit and 
vegetables, for example - showed that there was a demand. 
And consumer concerns then persuaded the big supermarket 
chains to respond with their own organic produce - turning 
a niche market into a mainstream one. The story of organic 
food and farming is not merely a battle against the odds 
but, in one sense, a revolution from below. As far back as 
in 1946 Lady Eve Balfour, one of organic food's pioneers, 
wrote in the first issue of the Soil Association's journal, 
then called Mother Earth, that people had "begun to see 
life on this planet as a whole, and Nature's plan as a 
complicated system of independence rather than one based on 
competition". Lady Balfour's words have a peculiarly modern 
ring today but in the aftermath of war, when governments 
were increasingly obsessed with self-sufficiency and 
British agriculture was heading down the road of cheap 
food, they would have struck the farm and food 
establishment as irresistibly crankish. That most people 
would now regard them as eminently sensible is a telling 
illustration, you could argue, of how yesterday's cranks 
have become today's consumers. GRAPHIC: Spitalfields 
organic market: Britain's consumption of organic produce 
has doubled since 1996 David MacDiarmid