organic drifts

The Hidden Wolves of the Organic Boom

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Organic farming is definitely on the up and up. The latest figures published by the Organic Agency, which has been scrutinising this market for several years, set an impressive series of records. But behind these abstract figures, there are some very concrete realities. The bio of the origins, that of products grown by farmers on small plots of land, in scrupulous respect of environmental rules, soil preservation and food quality, this bio is gradually being submerged in the shelves offered to consumers, by industrial bio, that born from the appetites of the giants of the food industry and supermarkets. Another organic not so beautiful.
 
Sccording to the figures published on Tuesday 4 June by The Bio Agency, 5 000 nouvelles exploitations sont venues grossir les rangs de l’agriculture biologique, portant leur nombre à 41 623. Un niveau de recrutement record. C’est désormais 9,5 % des fermes françaises qui sont certifiées bio. Un seuil symbolique a aussi été franchi avec le passage du cap des 2 millions d’hectares cultivés selon des principes respectueux de l’environnement. Un chiffre qui représente 7,5 % de la surface agricole utile française et qui se situe en ligne avec l’objectif de parvenir à 15 %de la surface agricole en bio d’ici 2022.
In total, " 14% of agricultural employment is in organic farming. "Florent Guhl, director of the Agence Bio, a public body that monitors the development of organic farming in France, told AFP.
 

All crops are going organic

The novelties of 2018 mainly concern cereals, oilseeds and pulses which are catching up, with a jump of 31% of these agricultural surfaces in organic farming, to 513,000 hectares, indicates the Agence Bio in its annual report. « In 2013, only 1% of field crops in France were organic, today we are at 4.3%. " greeted Mr. Guhl. An increase made possible in particular by the significant increase in dedicated processing and storage capacities, the opening of silos and mills dedicated to organic wheat, such as that of the Valfrance cooperative near Melun or Soufflet in the Rhône department.
In order to achieve the official objective of 15% of the total useful agricultural area in organic farming by the end of 2022, the agency estimates that, in terms of cereals, France will have to cultivate 8% of its "field crops" organically.
 
In viticulture too, the leap is very significant (+20%), with 12% of the French vineyard in organic (94,020 hectares) in 2018. To encourage winegrowers to take the plunge, a CAB (conversion to organic farming) label has been created to cover the three-year conversion period.
The logo allows the winegrower to explain to the consumer that he is committed to the organic process, and thus to sell his wine a little more expensive than non-organic wine during the transition. « 14,000 new hectares of vines will be in organic conversion next year. Mr. Guhl said that "organic fruit and vegetables have been a "great success", encouraged by the objective stated in the Food Law (Egalim) to achieve 20% of organic products or products in conversion to collective catering by 2022.
 

The ransom of success

This increase in organic production is reflected in a significant boom in consumption: " The consumption of organic products is growing at a rate very close to that of production. In 2018, the French spent an additional 1.4 billion euros, i.e. a total of 9.7 billion euros, which represents 5 % of household food purchases. " analyses Florent Guhl. Organic food is thus becoming a kind of safe haven in the face of the fears that consumers have about the quality of their food.
This boom in consumption has not escaped the notice of the supermarkets, which intend to take advantage of this market. « Unfortunately, promising markets, such as organic or vegetal, can be identified as markets of call. The pressure of mass distribution is complete. It is almost logical to say that it is important to position oneself competitively on these consumer trends. "says to the World Olivier Clanchin, whose company Triballat Noyal was one of the pioneers of organic products in specialist stores but also in mass distribution with its brand Vrai.
 
" The supermarket model is incompatible with the Bio ", claimed Claude Gruffat, in his book Les dessous de l'alimentation Bio (The Salt Sea, 2017). Nevertheless, the fact remains that mass distribution, by dint of nibbling away at market shares, has taken the largest share of the organic cake. In 2018, 49 % of the products bearing the organic label were sold in the major retailers. A 4.75 billion euro prize money, an increase of 22.6 % in one year. And this movement is not about to stop. The Carrefour brand has set a target of 5 billion in organic food by 2022 against 1.8 billion today. The same goes for Leclerc, where organic sales are expected to double in five years.
 
Faced with this steamroller, specialist stores such as La Vie claire, Biocoop, Les Nouveaux Robinsons, etc. are losing ground but are holding on to their 34 % market share. As for small independent shops, they are no longer resisting; they are closing down. The only survivors were the short circuits, which maintained their position at 12 % of market share; a consolation for consumers who love short circuits and local shops, who want to be sure that their money is going into the producer's pocket.
 

"We had our bio stolen."

In this context dominated by the larger ones, more and more voices are being raised among small producers, activists, and consumers to denounce the industrialists who are embarking on the sale of organic products, to the detriment of peasant values (respect for nature, solidarity between producers, food autonomy, diversity of crops and animal husbandry, etc.).
 
Louis Julian is a pioneer of organic farming. He participated in the elaboration of the first specifications within Nature et Progrès, a set of methods and rules to respect the ecosystem (plant, animal, soil, human) as a whole. In Reporterrehe cries out, " we had our bio stolen. ». For him, the European label has perverted organic farming: " Certain chemical treatments are authorised, as well as a small proportion of GMOs, particularly in feed; there are no restrictions on the size of farms and grazing is not compulsory.. »
 
The existence of two types of organic farming has thus gradually become apparent. One that has kept the spirit of the beginning - diversified agriculture, on a family and local scale - and another that reproduces the classic industrial schemes, which can be called bio-technical, because it is satisfied with a minimal application of the specifications. This "bio-technology" can be called bio-technology because it is limited to a minimal application of the specifications. bio-industrial and above-ground which accepts heated greenhouses and slatted floors, is widely contested by the pioneers, as is the development of "pseudo-organic" approaches such as the "...". zero pesticide residue ".
 
These resistance fighters from the very beginning are trying to wage a guerrilla war against the excesses of their agriculture. They have just launched a petition against the heated greenhouses used to produce organic vegetables. « No organic tomatoes in winter ». The message of the online petition launched by the Fédération nationale de l'agriculture biologique (Fnab), supported by other NGOs (the Nicolas Hulot Foundation, Greenpeace and the Climate Action Network), organic farmers and chefs is clear: the industrialization of fruit and vegetables heated in greenhouses is incompatible with the very principle of organic farming. « In recent months, there has been an increase in organic conversion projects of heated greenhouses for the production of out-of-season fruit and vegetables. These projects in gestation will allow the French organic tomato to be found on the stalls in the middle of March. A gustatory, agronomic and environmental aberration! "are alarmed the authors of the petition.
 

The drifts of industrial bio

The summer special of 60 million consumers published on June 5th has set foot in the organic dish. The magazine of the National Institute of Consumption reviewed more than 130 organic consumer foods, from yoghurts to fruit juices, eggs and ham. The results show an increasing drift of organic food with regard to its criteria of origin. The organic label is supposed to guarantee a healthy and environmentally friendly product. In reality, it is mainly used as a marketing argument for large food and retail chains.
 
Because behind the label there are many problems:
- It does not guarantee the absence of palm oil, particularly in spreads;
- Although organic milk and eggs are pesticide-free, they contain a number of carcinogenic pollutants. Jean Blaquière explains in the Le Figaro that they are notably loaded with dioxins and PCBs, and paradoxically more so than so-called conventional products. These dioxins, he points out, come from industrial discharges, particularly from incinerators, and PCBs, chemical products whose manufacture has been banned in France since 1987, have the unfortunate tendency to accumulate in the soil and remain there for years. This is an aberration of the organic label, which favours grazing livestock, but does not control the soil. Thus, the farmer can convert his field to organic, even though it is located near a polluting installation.
- Half of the organic olive oils analysed contain plasticizers, in particular phthalates considered to be endocrine disruptors;
- Many guaranteed organic products do not mean that they are better for your health. This is particularly the case for organic fruit juices or organic cakes, which are usually very sweet.
 
In addition to these excesses, the NGO Générations futures published a new report on Thursday, June 6, on pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables consumed in France, based on 13,300 official data produced by the General Directorate for the Repression of Fraud (DGCCRF) from 2012 to 2017. The results are indisputable: out of fifty plants, 71.9 % of fruit samples and 43.3 % of vegetables contain pesticide residues; 2.9 % of fruit and 3.4 % of vegetables tested exceed the legal thresholds allowed.

READ UP : Fruit and Vegetables: The State of the Field on Pesticide Residues

All these excesses show how a movement launched by activists concerned with defending small farmers against the logic of productivism, food quality and respect for the environment is in danger of crashing into the gondola heads of mass distribution. More than ever it is up to the consumer to be vigilant and not to be lulled by the sirens of marketing.
 
Unlike industrial bio, organic agriculture defends a political, economic and social project. It defends respect for the land, its rhythm and its seasons; it campaigns for greater food autonomy and for access to better quality food. These are not marketing arguments designed to attract the customer. They are values that must be imposed by those who buy these products. It is up to them to sharpen their critical thinking and express their choices. « Feeding oneself is a political act " said the philosopher Corinne Pelluchon in his book Food. She's more right than ever.
 
 

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