the ‘organic’ bandwagon….?

organic bottled water.....?

organic bottled water.....?

Recently, I mentioned here:

But it all seems to me that organic in the monetary sense does 2 things.

  • it gets you pr
  • it sells your product

Here’s an example. Suffice to say I don’t wish to give [the self titled] ‘our founder’ website traffic [because I personally don’t agree with the ethos] – i’ve decided not to link to his shop. That shop would be the ‘organic supermarket [all one word] dot ie‘ based in Dublin.

On their FAQ’s I would point out 2 questions

  • do you support local farmers and suppliers?
    Yes, wherever possible we source local produce from surrounding Irish producers
  • do you support eco friendly issues?
    Yes, we like to do our bit for the environment.
organic-food joke courtesy

humourous... but extremely logic

Here’s a quick qustion then….? After you have saved the earth from its chemicals it’s then still ‘organic’ for someone to import [non-irish] pasta from Bolivia and then deliver it anywhere in Ireland.

Excuse me….?

I don’t have a carbon footprint calculator to hand. But isn’t that a big boat [& truck] load of CO2…. 🙄

At this point let me refer you to an article by Lloyd Alter entitled why bother with organics when you can’t even know what it means.

Here’s an alternate. If you take the Ardkeen Quality Foodstore – I found them by putting irish made pasta in a google search – its organic too [I rang the shop to say hi – retails at €3.50 for 250g btw]. But whilst Ardkeen don’t ‘qualify’ as an organic store – by definition legislation – they are logically greener, more organic by my estimation, kinder to the environment and more supportive of Irish jobs than the Bolivian Pasta & Belgian Chocolate buyers. I liked their fruit & veg page 😉

seamus walsh of lo-tide

seamus walsh of lo-tide

I then also rang Ardkeens supplier of Irish Organic pasta, Lo – tide. A Moran family run business and spoke with wife Carmel. It was explained that their pasta is for sale in Donnybrook Fair on Morehampton Road, but not in the ‘organic store’. She also asked me to mention that they would be at the Taste of Wicklow festival, K Club 23rd August, if anyone would like to sample their produce. Lo Tide Foods are in Moyna, Kilmeena, Westport, Co Mayo & can be contacted on Tel: +353 98 42616 or Email info[at]lo-tide[dot]com. They’re really nice people 🙂

I’m not saying Kevin Myers of the Irish Independent is 100% correct in his article Green Party is heading for an early extinction and its death should be a source of unbridled joy – on Genetically Modified food and nuclear power. But the guy does get one thinking and does make some valid & quite logic points. His first two paragraphs quite relevant to this

When you see intelligent, successful, wise people suckered by a fashionable but ridiculous idea — then it’s time to really worry.

For even under the now-departed Feargal Quinn, Superquinn was erecting signs in their supermarkets, declaring “No Genetically Modified Foods Sold Here.” A fatuous but suitably sanctimonious statement that was untrue in almost every single department, and about every single item on sale, save for perhaps the sun-dried sea salt from Brittany.

hmmmm......? true.

So what is organic….? is it simply one big bandwagon and sure whatever sells with that tagline, ‘certified’ of course, stuck to the label? or is it just one big ATM machine allowed to destroy the ozone layer whilst saving the land we farm….?

I’m going to put this image in again… it seems to make a lot more sense than me eating bolivian pasta and my belgian chocolates in front of of wide screen plasma. After that you could also try punching a hole in the roof of the entire planet and purchase some organic coconuts. Delivered of course…..

update 8th august

so the times online can produce a balanced paper on a controversial [?] subject this entitled Organic Food is just a tax on the gullible by Dominic Lawson….. I won’t comment – you decide.

*The Dublin Food Coop runs a food market every Saturday (09:30-16:30) and Thursday (14:00-20:00) at Newmarket in Dublin 8. Fresh local and artisan produce, mainly organic, and other products for sustainable living are on sale.

Darren is also a judge for the bord bia National Organic Awards 😉

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18 replies
  1. James Comiskey
    James Comiskey says:

    Is organic farming actually ethical?
    How many billion is spent each year on agricultural research?
    This is research carried out by agricultural scientist who have studied physic’s, chemistry, biology, soil science, economics…… that’s just a few of the subjects that each of these individuals have to at least pass before they can qualify in their field. So from here they carry on with their career and often end up on research farms around the country.
    Their findings are published and passed onto the farmers who produce our food. These findings allow our food producers to do so to the highest quality in the most efficient way.
    A farmer at the end of the day is a business person who will not use too many chemicals on their farm because this will result in lost revenue. Another thing to remember is that a plant acquires its nutrients through a series of chemical reactions. These chemicals are either manufactured or come from nature.
    The manufactured type is very expensive and if they are applied at too high a rate will leech from the soil. The vast majority of farmers know this because the research tells them so and will work to best practise.
    Another point is that anyone who comes from the land has a tangible connection with the land. This can be seen in how they live and how they work on the land. There is a respect there that has been passed down through generations, and if you talk to any farmer about the land you will quickly find out that what drives them is how to get the best from the land.
    We are constantly discovering new ways of producing food, but that’s not to say we did not make mistakes in the past. We have learned from these, and have now reached a point where our scientists carry out the proper research before we adopt a new method of food production.
    So what we need to see is a balance between maximum out put farming and a return to the old methods. One example of this is the use of chemical fertilisers combined with crop rotation. Another maybe raising free range livestock while using feedstuff that may not necessarily be 100% organic.
    So back to the question is organic farming ethical? Can we achieve maximum out put through organic farming? I may be wrong, but is not possible to achieve higher output through conventional farming. Should we not be achieving maximum out put and passing the benefits onto the less well off in society?

  2. Peter Donegan MI Hort
    Peter Donegan MI Hort says:


    to an extent you are correct in the sense that farming is a heritage of sorts, a part of our history requiring generational and instinctive knowledge. And if EU legislation keeps up…. there won’t be any organic chemicals left to use. The list is slowly but surely becoming shorter.

    But that does make us think. And that in itself is important.

    regarding your closing comment:
    in my opinion farming produce is like stocks. if the out put per acre/ ha is reduced then the price per tonne weight sold increases to suffice demand. The farmer will always want to reap the highest price per weight…..
    We also had the eu ‘mountain situation long ago where in a funny sort of price fixing [you may say] produce was actually destroyed, if perishable after being purchased by the EU and/ or held in storage where possible…..

    I wonder if anyone would benefit from maximum yield at all….?

  3. Philip
    Philip says:

    I do think the pricing of food needs review. In some ways, I do think some foods are too cheap. I refer here to high calorie, appetite enhancing stuff like cheap chocholate (vegelate with 20% or less of cocoa), white bread, white sugar, margarine and lot of processed derivatives like biscuits, crisps, cuppa soups, etc. and corn oil.

    The other pricier foods tend to be meat and good veg and fruit, and olive oils etc. Oh…and good chocs with 50% plus cocoa content.

    Was in Italy looking at a cheese (name I have forgotten) – 80 Euro a kilo! I said who buys this! I A 100g cut should last you a month I was curtly informed. And looking around at the populace, it seemed to me they all ate like mice.

    I find it sad/hilarious looking at someone load up with a greasy mix of burgers, chips and chocs and then a diet coke and paying through the nose for it. Seems to me we have our priorities truly cocked up.

    If the organic lobby want to really mobilise in a way that might really help and in a way that would “excuse” their understandly low yields, maybe an approach is to tax eating garbage the same way as cigarettes and grant aid local produce. I suspect the health impacts would be very measurable aside from the fact that we might enrich local communities and cheer people up generally. It’s not a case of whether it’s Organic Vs Conventional…it’s Organic vs Lard & heart disease & cancer etc. based on the idea that we westerners need to move from hi-calorie diets.

  4. Philip
    Philip says:

    Just want to add – Organics tend to be associated with the high quality foods anyway – where price differences can be smaller. Fundamentally, I think conventionally grown vs organic grown is a loosing proposition based on nutriental value and could destroy the original intent which is to get people eat quality food – FULL STOP. We need to think in terms of locally grown as simply as possible versus the rest of it…and then sell in small portions with a focus on educating people on quality and good discernment on good taste. We need a food tasting award which is biased on a combination of CO2 impact, revenue per hectare generation and value. If that guys leeks make better soup than that guys over there, the price differential should reflect it – like a good wine.

  5. carmel moran
    carmel moran says:

    Hi Peter,
    Just to let you know that Lotide will be at Taste Kildare on Sunday,August 23rd and at the Festival of World Cultures, Dun Laoghaire,from Friday, 28th of August – Sunday 30th of August.
    The Lotide Product Range is as follows:-
    Lotide Gourmet Organic Pasta- 6 varieties
    Lotide Seaweeds- Dillisk, Carrageen Moss etc
    Lotide Gourmet Sausages- regular, chilli & garlic
    Lotide Black & White Puddings
    Lotide Seaweed Baths

    Hope to see you at the above events, Peter!
    All the best,

  6. Peter Donegan MI Hort
    Peter Donegan MI Hort says:

    A Chara Carmel,

    might just pop up to the dun laoghaire gig to say hi and i did get to taste your superb seaweed sausage – at the time of course i didn’t know they were seaweed 😉 but they are super

    lovely to speak to you again
    make sure and keep me updated on anything else thats going on
    black/ white puddings and seaweed baths….. could it get anymore interesting 🙂 love it!

    slan agus beannacht

  7. Darren Grant
    Darren Grant says:

    Your defamatory comments about us being jumping on the band wagon of the organic movement are clearly uninformed about what our store stands for.

    Your first attack us about pasta from Bolivia? Why not order our pasta from Sligo which we supported from the start www [dot] organicsupermarket [dot] ie/shop/product/noodle-house-irish-spaghetti

    As for environmental issues, we were nominated for the environmental company of the year as we encourage recycling, we re-use all packaging for sending out internet orders, and have virtually zero waste…

    We have 57 local and artisan suppliers of Irish food…more than your quoted “food co-op” . We are audited by the organic trust and the department of agriculture every year to ensure we support local organic.

    We have sold more local organic food than any other independent sore in Ireland in the last 12 months. Any item that we cannot grow in Ireland is imported (but by boats the lowest environmental form of transport)

    I Challenge you to visit my store, meet me in person or come on my forthcoming radio show before casting your defamatory comments.

    I really wish that before casting these comments on a company you have never visited nor have any understanding of…. that you would call me on 086 7278888 and stand up to what you have just said.
    I mean this now… either call me or stop your cheap attacks on a growing independent sector.

    Our nation was once a land of green grocers, butchers and bakers…now we have convenience stores… why do people keep attacking the only independent retail we have left…..

    I have dedicated my life to organics and you have stated that I am on an “organic Band-wagon”…how wrong you are!

    I know you won’t publish this as it may counter act your argument, but at least I can argue your attach on my publication….call to my shop… let’s have a coffee (organic).

  8. Peter Donegan MI Hort
    Peter Donegan MI Hort says:

    A Chara Darren,

    the post is more [in my opinion] about a bit of logic when shopping ‘organic’. I shall try to answer your comment point by point.

    Whether or not you have pasta from Sligo or not I don’t agree with the bolivian pasta. That’s just my opinion. If people wish to buy that pasta and feel its ok to do so under the organic label then thats fine.

    Congratulations on the award – but – The environmental issues I referred to where that of transportation [boats or not and then by road in Ireland] – the sole reason I disagreed with the example used of bolivian pasta, coconuts etc

    The shop I referred to was only to show that Irish [organic] pasta could be bought. I’ve never been to their shop either – but I don’t believe they claim to be organic.

    I’d rather you didn’t challenge me – and – I’ve no problem coming on your radio show. My comments were not defamatory. The words I wrote were more to suggest that people look for country of origin as well as looking for/ rather than just seeing the organic label. It is at this point that I suggest that maybe organic versus hole in ozone is a step too far….. ?

    I do stand up to what I have said and have no problem talking to you at all and I believe you when you say you mean it. It’s not a cheap attack. In that context I also don’t agree with the ‘no nasty additives’ tagline on your website – although it is correct – I just don’t agree with it.

    You are 110% regarding what this nation used to be and why people keep attacking the only independent retail sector we have left I don’t know. Once again – this is about organic combined with local – not just about the 57 local sourced products – how many products does your store have – is it over 2000?

    I do not refer to you personally or otherwise nor anyone else for that matter. It is called the organic bandwagon with a question mark after it. I raise the question.

    I have always published all comments – unless of course they use extreme vulgarity and are just way off the point. Yours is most welcome.

    Outside of that Darren – I’m sure you are a great guy and I hope the business does really well. Sincerely.

    This isn’t the first time I have disagreed with elements of the ‘organic’ craze. But as you will also see the day before I put this post [click here] in support of national organic week and the awards. I’d also guess you did your research on me so I’m sure you are aware of my qualifications, teaching horticulture, writing for the farmers journal – my hens, garden giveaways [rather than skips] that I do grow my own….. I could go on for ages here… that said I also disagree with people who sell chicken houses for over €2000 euro and used the tagline ‘recession saving’. In that context the entire Richard Corrgigan debacle was a bit rediculous [too many posts to link to] and I also did raise the arguement over organic versus non organic shortly before this post.

    Either or the posts are meant to create awareness and discussion. It is in no way personal.

    slán agus beannacht

  9. Evidence Matters
    Evidence Matters says:

    It’s remarkable and refreshing to see such well-founded exploration of food, its source and its impact on people, the economy and the environment.It is also timely in a week when the UK Govt. has published a warning that the future may see a population that relies upon a form of food rationing and greater reliance on self-sufficiency and the virtues of locally produced food.

    It’s clear that the author and commenters are deeply passionate about food and its place in the wider landscape of environmental considerations. In the light of the warnings about economic gloom, changes in growing conditions etc. I am attracted to Peter’s ethos of the reduced environmental impact of locally-sourced and produced foods. Of course, this highlights the difficulty of producing a definition for organic that is consistent and useful in encompassing what most people would think of as organic in terms of crop growing or raising livestock and also reducing the impact on the wider environment, such as food miles, impact on another country’s economy if growing land is dedicated to cash crops rather than food for the local populace etc. If ‘organic’ has to encompass all that, then I would respectfully say that it can’t and has become nothing more than a marketing term that PR companies hope that you might interpret as a shorthand for ethics.

    I would have been scandalised by the €2000 for the chicken house if I had not, just today, read that more and more people in England are enquiring into pig arks for their gardens. It’s now so fashionable that even one of the major DIY chains is going to offer them. Is the next bandwagon going to be a hyper-local one?

  10. Micko
    Micko says:

    eemm, Darren….hang on there a second before you go claiming defamation….I notice you make some dodgy claims about organic food on your organicshop website…

    The top 10 reasons to buy Organic Food

    1. It’s Healthy
    More vitamins, minerals and detoxifying antioxidants.
    ***there is no published research evidence to show all organic food has more “More vitamins, minerals and detoxifying antioxidants”.

    2. No Nasty Additives
    No colourings, flavourings, sweeteners.
    ***Isn’t sugar a sweetner?…..and we all know too much sugar is bad for you

    3. No Pesticides
    We don’t like to spray our veggies.
    ***Organic farming does allow the use of toxic pesticides…this claim is a lie…their are a number of

    4. No GM
    No genetically modified crops, we let Mother Nature design food.
    ***there has been GM found in organic so you cannot say there is absolutely no GM

    5. No Drugs
    No antibiotics are used before, during or after.
    ***can you please define antibiotic?

    6. No Environmental damage
    ***farming be it organic or otherwise always causes environmental damage as the practice of farming can damage the original eco-system

    10. Delicious
    Organic food simply tastes better.
    ***evidence please!! as the research I have seen does not support claim that all organic food “tastes better”

    so while I am sure you are a great guy with your heart in the right place you are however making claims that do not stand up to the evidence. I would sort that out before you go ranting!!

  11. James Comiskey
    James Comiskey says:

    Three things never to talk about on a blog, religion, politics and organic farming!
    I thought one of the points of a blog on the world wide web was to allow you to express your opinions. As such, as far as I can see Peter was simply asking a number of questions to provoke a debate, and if he’s making defamatory statements I suggest you seek legal advice.
    Organic food often comes up in conversation in social situations and I tend to shy away from the topic. This is because individuals often have very strong opinion’s about the subject and I tend to avoid conflict.
    When I buy vegetables I don’t check to see if it’s organic first, I check to see if it’s Irish. One issue I was hoping would be dealt with in my first post was that; should carbon miles be more important than weather food is organic or not?
    It may have come across that I was talking purely about economics but another question that wasn’t picked up on was; how can we produce food and import food because it’s organic when there are people starving in the third world? Now I know this brings it down to a very simplistic level, but I’m just asking a question. I’m not making a statement and I’m not trying to offend anyone, I’m just trying to provoke debate…….
    Can I also say that it is great that there are such passionate people out there because you are pushing the standards for food production.

  12. Peter Donegan MI Hort
    Peter Donegan MI Hort says:

    @evidence matters
    i think you’ve fairly well summised my point there. But as Philip [comment #4] said

    the original intent which is to get people eat quality food – FULL STOP. We need to think in terms of locally grown as simply as possible versus the rest of it…and then sell in small portions with a focus on educating people on quality and good discernment on good taste

    i agree with the principal – but like all things purist – sometimes its just not right. this so in the case of the carbon footprint. After that – I guess you have done your research and once again I can find no point that I could argue there. Including your entire closing paragraph.

    @james comiskey
    I do agree in the point that a blog allows one to give ‘an opinion’ – in my opoinion thats perfectly allowed – so long as it is backed up by fact. If however that fact provokes arguement……[?] rather than debate – then this is the only point I will disagree with you on.

    I feel its logic to suggest than ‘saving the earth’ should be done similar to a BER [building energy rating scheme] certificate – where its air miles, organic, how close to the shop it is finally sold in etc right down to that shops energy costs before it is sold are calculated.
    This would eliminate the clichéd ‘buzzword’ bandwagon craze and maybe one could then better appreciate the point of what I would/ should be considered truely organic. ie. homegrown, the closer the better; and earth friendly.

    go raibh míle maith agaibh arís 😉
    slan go foll

  13. mark o conell
    mark o conell says:

    Ok – first off-we all agree that accurate unambiguous labeling must happen. But that applies to non organic much much more than organic because it is 95% of what we eat. So is NON organic correctly labelled? Before we attack an opinion made by a retailer, which most of their customers [very informed customers] agree with, though misleading, perhaps let us consider this:
    Do non organic customers know that most of their meat,chicken eggs and milk has been produced using, in part, gm feed? Do they care?
    Organic consumers generally buy organic because they feel it is better for the environment,animal husbandry,and for them! To say we shoul’nt eat avocadoes from Peru, organic or not, is to limit the choice of the consumer. It is clear there are a range of issues here, but is the most important one that we have the right to choose what we eat and make informed choices? Do we have that right-I would say no! The agri-chem industry who unhesitantly admit they want to control the world’s food supply and soon will [3 companies now own 50% of the worlds seeds]don’t want you to have that choice. California will soon vote on a law that will label GMO s as in europe. Up to now there has been no labelling. Yet 75% of supermarket food contains gmo. It was never tested independently on humans or animals. They say ‘there is no substantial difference’ between non gm food and gm. This has been a 15 year experiment.But you won’t find any reports or papers written about. Perhaps the best way to see how it turned out is to look at the health of the american population.
    With the highest obesity,cancer,diabetes and heart disease rates in the entire planet- it don’t look like it turned out so good!Of course the high intake of genetically modified ‘foods’ may have nothing to do with this but it’s an odd conincidence!

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