Can we just get the organic thing clear? Organic does not mean additive-free; it means some additives and not others. Organic does not mean your food hasn’t been washed with chemicals, frozen or kept fresh with gas, or that it has not been flown around the world. Organic does not necessarily mean it is healthier, or will make you live longer; nor does it mean tastier, fresher, or in some way improved. Organically farmed fish is not necessarily better than wild fish. Organically reared animals didn’t necessarily live a happier life than nonorganic ones – and their death is no less traumatic.
More importantly, organic does not mean that the people who picked, packed, sowed and slaughtered were treated fairly, paid properly, or were free from artificial exploitation. The Chinese workers who drowned in Morecambe Bay were picking organic cockles for a pittance. If you really want to feed the hunger in your conscience, buy Fairtrade.
So what does organic actually mean? Buggered if I know. It usually means more expensive. Whatever the original good intentions of the organic movement, their good name has been hijacked by supermarkets, bijoux delicatessens and agri-processors as a value-added designer label. Organic comes with its own basket of aspiration, snobbery, vanity and fear that retailers on tight margins can exploit. And what I mind most about it is that it has reinvigorated the old class distinction in food. There is them that have chemical-rich, force-fed battery dinner and us that have decent, healthy, caring lunch. It is the belief that you can buy not only a clear conscience, but a colon that works like the log flume at Alton Towers.
In general, I applaud and agree with many of the aims of environmentally careful producers, but it is time we all admitted that the label “organic” has been polluted with cynicism, sentiment, sloppy practice and lies to the point where it is intellectually and practically bankrupt.
And it hasn’t made anyone a better cook.