Mission creep

BBC NEWS | UK | Organic move to cut food flights

The Soil Association, the organisation which advocates for and certifies organic food in the UK, is considering stripping organic status from food which is air-freighted into the country, because of concern about the greenhouse gases these flights cause. According to this BBC report, the bulk of what is flown in is “highly perishable or out-of-season produce”.

While I agree on the necessity to reduce the air-freighting of out-of-season produce into the UK just so that people can get winter or summer vegetables or fruit all year round, I don’t really believe that stripping food of organic status is the way to do this. Food is organic because it is farmed without pesticides or genetically modified seeds, not because of how it’s transported after it is grown.

On top of this, a lot of the organic food sold in the shops is chocolate or other food largely composed of ingredients transported from overseas. How is this brought here - no doubt they do not bring it by sailing ship. It’s brought by big ships and by trucks, and probably by plane, and all of these emit greenhouse gases. Perhaps if they do manage to repair the Cutty Sark after the recent fire, they could put it back out to sea and use it to transport organic cacao beans, coffee and fruit!

It seems like another case of “mission creep” by an organisation set up to further one issue extending its remit into another. It reminds me of the way the Free Software Foundation, in drawing up the new version of the General Public License (which is what allows open-source or “free” software to remain open), have tried to outlaw what they call “Tivoisation”, the supply of “free” software on rigged hardware which will not run altered versions of the software. Sony, which produces the TiVo, does not prevent anyone copying the software and using it in their own commercial product if they like and if they have the money, so what does it have to do with free software? It is another case of a group established for one purpose letting its agenda creep into another in response to behaviour antithetical to its culture.

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