I went to an inspiring and thought-provoking Soil Association annual conference in London on Friday. The theme was Innovation and Facing the Future with a brilliant key-note speech from economist Ann Pettifor (also a native of our home county of Suffolk!). Her talk centred on the “out of control” global financial system and that lack of bank lending to small businesses is stifling innovation and growth in the organic sector. She spoke of the dislocation between the planet’s financial and physical resources and maintained that the economics of organic food do stack up - 'organic is the future'. Bravo for putting across complex economic ideas in an easily digestible way.
Hans Herren of the IAASTD (an agriculture think tank) then gave an entertaining account from of why (among) other things GM is bad. I particularly loved his simple adage of why the world can’t feed itself, “we’re growing the wrong stuff in the wrong place at the wrong time”. Industrial systems (pesticides and herbicides) use 10 Kcal to produce 1 Kcal of food and crops (which is only possible while there is cheap oil around) whereas organic farming uses 1 Kcal to produce 3. He encouraged investment into agriculture research that is knowledge-intensive (like organic agriculture), and not pesticide-intensive.
The talks were presided over by Soil Association President Monty Don, pictured above sitting next to Phil Bloomer of Oxfam and and Soil Association chief executive Helen Browning.
Figures published by the Soil Association at the conference in the 2012 Market Report also showed that British consumers purchased 8.7% more certified organic skin care products in 2011 compared to 2010. Challenging economic times have clearly done little to dent consumers’ belief in green, healthy beauty. Long may it continue and thank you to all of you for supporting us.