Organic foods are a victim of their own success, with production
no longer able to keep up with demand while purists claim that
the initial ideals of clean, natural and healthy produce have been
sacrificed for profit.
Sales grew 15 percent in Germany last year and by almost 10 percent
in France, with a multiplication of organic brands and the launch of
such produce lines by large supermarket chains previously associated
with cheaper foods.
Enthusiasm for all things organic began as a movement led by
hard-core nature enthusiasts, mainly in northern Europe, but now
gains more and more adepts.
A "Green Week" at Germany’s agricultural fair saw organic brands
with a hall of their own while visitors tucked into organically produced
sausages before enjoying a glass of equally pure organic wine.
The flip side of the coin however is that European production is not
keeping pace with demand. Many fruits, vegetables and honey must
now be imported from places as far away as Turkey and Latin America.
"That poses a problem of credibility," according to Alexander Rogge
of the French federation of commerce and distribution FCD.
The organic label refers to methods of production which exclude the
use of fertilizers and pesticides and which respect certain norms of
But for many it is also a profession of faith in a healthy lifestyle that
respects the environment — a view that fits poorly with tomatoes flown
from Chile or lamb from New Zealand, generating pollution in the process.
"For many, organic products are regional products," said Rainer Mihr,
editor of the German food industry trade magazine Lebensmittel Praxis.
"What is the situation regarding quality and certification" of imported
products, wondered Uli Schnier, who runs a group of Dutch organic
How can one be sure that dried fruit from Turkey is produced according
to the same criteria as those in France, for example?
Beyond the question of certification, for purists the rapid expansion of
the sector itself poses a problem.
"We are happy that the commercial sector, including major distributors,
have joined the movement," said Alexander Gerber, who runs the German
federation of organic food traders.
But finding organic foods in low-cost supermarkets gives him food for thought.
"These days, quality is seen only from the point of view of the produce,"
Gerber complained, but organic is or should mean as much more than
that, being a broad "respect for the environment and for nature" and linked
to "an emotional quality."
For Wolfgang Gutberlet, head of the German supermarket chain tegut:
"Organic is not just the lack of toxic elements, it is something that looks
at the entire production process."
Organic sausages sold in certain supermarkets may have been made with
organically produced meat but they can still contain additives that purists
would reject, Gerber explained.
In the end, he said, you get the best products in organic food stores.
FRANKFURT, Jan 22, 2008 (AFP) –