The supermarket debate...

Sam Trebbick - 09 February 2011

Sam Trebbick: Strongly disagree with the view of Joanna Blythman that the Soil Association and the supermarkets are "not suitable bed mates". I question where the funding deficit would be made up without the support of the supermarkets and the many branded and indeed non branded suppliers in the room who supply them! They offer a route to the largest number of consumers and shoppers available and simply cannot be ignored in terms of what they can do and influence.

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Tags: Supermarkets 


Patrick Noble
12 February 2011 15:27

Well said Collete, but why not try something beautiful and true today? As you say we are certified for what we do, not what our produce is. It is an ethical label, or it is meaningless. SA have pursued the health food market and got lost in a wild wood of marketing and competing labels. Ethical, Fair, Local, Green, Organic have all been stolen from the commons of vocabulary and an originally campaigning organisation such as the Soil Association should be uprooting the fences and claiming the common back. Surplusses that enter the super market have been shed from the organisms of our food culture (agriculture) and cannot be labeled organic. We must accept a commodity price for our nameless commodities. In withdrawing certification from centralised distribution we are campaigning for vivacious market squares. The super market is already an anachronism, since peak oil has arrived. We must simply do what is right. Imagine the flashing cameras if SA did what is beautiful and true and abandoned health food labeling, the Organic Trade Board and all the other anachronisms. None of us have farmed organically for the money (apart from a few anachronisms). We'll never build an enduring economy unless we begin to inhabit it. First one to sell and one to buy...

Collette Haynes
12 February 2011 11:29

I think we should definitely work with the supermarkets. We should cosy up to them and be the best bedfellows and then once we have intoxicated them with our organic exotic delights, take a RELATE councelling session. There is a big difference between working with and working for. And when one party is behaving in an unthinking, domineering and arguably cruel manner then it is very important to be assertive and point out to our 'friend' their faults. It is important not to indulge in the role of victim. This is very difficult all the while one is financially dependent on them. If we have nowhere else to go. No safe houses. But there are a lot of grass roots, new shoots 'Viable Alternatives' springing up (eg True Food community co-op). Some healthy competition for our bullish friends. Which might, if we are brave enough to keep the debate open, encourage them to embody the organic principles of Fairness, Care, Health and Ecology. Not just to Consumers alone but to soil, plant, animal and consumer as one and indivisible. What fine specimens they could become. If we only see organic as a product then we run the risk of colluding in the destruction of the environment, our diets, our health, our local economies, our skills, our wildlife, our climate, as well as the quality and variety of our consumer choice. Not to mention the unfair distribution of food between the developed and the third world. All of which supermarkets, in their unregulated, unchecked state can cause. To be critical of supermarkets is to engage. It is to 'Get Real'. Supermarkets pretend to be the peoples friend. The saviour of the masses. Hungry people are angry people as we so often see abroad. But cheap food is robbing the poor to give to the poor and evades the real question of why, food - a basic human right, is still out of many peoples reach. And distracts from the real issue of why the distribution of wealth is still so great. So are supermarkets the friends of the masses or peddlars of modern day opiate? To dismiss all critique as unrealistic or (as Rita Clifton said) having a "need to grow up" is to completely miss the point of organic. We need to keep looking at the bigger picture. And keep the complex philosophy of oranic alive - not just the market. I hope there is room for both the supermarkets, the viable alternatives and the radical thinkers in the bed. We need to keep an eye on other peoples needs as well as just our own. To listen as well as voice. Perhaps then in 20 years time we wont just have hung on in and replicated our own faults but will have given birth to something much better than what we have now.

Catherine Fookes
10 February 2011 20:47

Without the supermarkets, no mass organic market, - organic would only be for the elite as, lets face it, most people shop in supermarkets. Get real people. So - turn the clock back 20 years? No thanks!

Patrick Noble
10 February 2011 12:33

The organic market is an evolved market of market squares, high streets, corner shops and village shops - which might endure. The super (commodity) market is not only not organic but is against organic. Each organic purchase in a super market is one less in a durable market square. Neither can we buy organic dispensation for our guilt at shopping there. Our surplus must end in the super market because most people shop there, but it should end as what it is: unlabeled commodity. There can be no hope of change unless organic cert is removed from centralised distribution. Times ahead will be difficult. Organic labeling should not (as it is) make it worse.

John Walker
09 February 2011 20:16

"..we should work with them until we phase them out." That's brilliant - we need more folk like Ed to remind us that some of these seemingly unstoppable forces will one day come to an end. I'm sure I'm not alone in rather fancying the idea of ex-supermarket buildings being the perfect venues for local producer markets of the future. Oh, and you'll be able to charge up your electric car while you browse all that delicious, carbon positive organic food.

Ed Dowding
09 February 2011 17:16

Me too. Supermarkets suck life from a local economy, but here they are, and we should work with them until we phase them out. I find her comments in curious conflict with her comments about the importance of having ethnic diversity in the Soil Association. In that instance she's rightly saying that you have to go to where the people are, you have to be appealing to the people. And the disappointing fact is that people are in supermarkets.

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