Organic farmers feel the pain

When the going gets tough, the tough... stop buying organic food

Published September 4, 2008 3:35PM (EDT)

Can we afford the organic lifestyle?

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) recently predicted that out of all the G7 elite group of rich countries, only Britain is headed for recession, this year. Britain's housing market, reports The Guardian got even more out of whack than the U.S.', and home prices are falling faster and further. Combine that with high energy and food prices and, well, you can guess the rest.

The Guardian also reports that economic woes are resulting in a troubling display of collateral damage. Organic food sales have gone into free fall, swiftly dropping by 20 percent from their peak earlier this year. (Thanks to the Private Sector Development blog for the tip.)

Figures collected for the Guardian by the market research company TNS show spending on organic food and drinks fell from a peak of nearly £100m a month earlier this year to £81m in the most recent four-week period recorded. The fall has been steepest in eggs, but is also reported in the most popular sectors, including dairy, fruit and vegetables and chicken.

Some farmers are reportedly returning to non-organic production.

I think the Guardian's Juliette Jowit is pushing the provocative envelop when she asks "Was the organic food revolution just a fad?" A commitment to organic food is not like a changing hemline. But as a sign of how powerful price signals are for consumer behavior, the changing consumption patterns in the U.K. can't be ignored.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Globalization Great Recession How The World Works Sustainable Food