This over the definitions of organic and carbon footprints is delicious.
Two leading voices in the fight against climate change were at loggerheads last night over the weight given to "food miles" in a labelling system designed to encourage consumers to choose low-carbon products in shops and supermarkets.
The Co-operative group says it makes "no sense" for the Soil Association to focus so much on air freight, which is often a relatively small part of the total environmental impact of a product and risks increasing poverty in places such as Africa that need planes to carry some goods to markets.
The dispute arose when the Soil Association proposed changing its labelling system to include food miles after coming under pressure from stakeholders increasingly worried about the amount of CO2 pollution coming from aviation.
The Soil Association insists that it is not trying to ban air-freighted produce completely but might change its regulations so that organic produce can only be air-freighted if it also meets the Soil Association\’s own ethical trade or the Fairtrade Foundation standards.
This is not good enough for the Co-op. Laura Vickery, social reporting manager at the Co-op, said in a letter to Patrick Holden, director of the Soil Association: "We consider that focusing on air freight is a very poor proxy for the environmental impact of a product, and also does not adequately deal with other social and/or economic consequences of disincentivising air freight, particularly for producers in the developing world.
"We believe it doesn\’t make sense at the most fundamental level for the Soil Association to focus on air freight, when the environmental impact of meat and dairy products and use of forced heating in glasshouses [which the Soil Association acknowledges incur high carbon footprints] are not subject to an equivalent level of scrutiny and public discussion."
For if we actually did a proper cost benefit analysis, really checked the carbon footprint, we might find that those dusky foreigners working with sticks at the land were in fact doing less damage, even after the airfreight, than those whote blokes driving tractors around Gloucestershire.
And if you\’re the trade union for those white blokes on tractors, as the Soil Association is, then that would never do, would it?