Sunday, November 18, 2012

Organic food

In France, consuming organic food is seen as something only the rich (or the pretentious) do. At the supermarket, the organic food section is usually small and secluded, and looks like an afterthought section created once every other section is done. At peak times when the whole supermarket is overcrowded and the lines at the cashiers snake into the aisles, one section remains deserted - the organic food section.

Normal people would maybe pick a carton of organic almond milk or some gluten-free energy bars from this section, but I have yet to see anyone filling their carts exclusively with organic foodstuff. The French are a bunch of highly critical people, and most of them do not really buy into the idea that organic food is really organic, and they might be right. After all, the ecosystem consists of a very long and complicated chain reaction where everything is related and nothing is standalone. So imagine an organic farmer who stays away from DDT in the hope of growing beautiful organic lettuces, while just a mile away another farmer is heavily using fertilizer and pesticide for his cabbages. Both farms are interconnected by soil and underground water. Who's to say that the organic lettuces are not contaminated by fertilizer and pesticide used a mile away?

Besides, despite all kinds of apocalyptic warning about the world's energy supplies running low, we still pollute on a daily basis to maintain a certain level of comfort at the expense of the environment. It would be extremely pretentious to consume organic food when one spends half an hour in the shower, wasting hundreds of gallons of heated water.

Of course, these arguments are used to support - or mask - the real reason why very few people choose to buy organic food: price. Organic food in France is very expensive. People are not willing to spend three times the amount they would pay on normal pasta, because pasta is part of their staple diet. On the other hand, they would be more lenient towards the idea of splurging on the occasional organic raisins or sunflower seeds.

Which brings me to the core of my thoughts this morning: how do the Germans keep their organic food at low prices?

When I was living in Germany, one of the things I loved was how cheap foodstuff was. I particularly loved their approach to introducing organic food to the masses. Instead of making it the food pariah stashed away in some remote corner people would usually overlook, they would put organic spaghetti next to the normal ones, and they cost exactly the same. They have eliminated the most crucial deciding factor, so I have no excuses left not to buy organic food. In the beginning I was almost always guilted into buying it, but that kickstarted my conscience about eating healthier and it quickly became a habit. I would automatically pick out organic carrots and rucola at the veggie aisles, and I would quickly scan the muesli row for the big green BIO label before rushing off to the checkout. After a while, it became unthinkable to buy so-called chemical foodstuff when organic food was widely available and cheap. I was not a firm believer in the wholesomeness of organic food, but at those prices, 'why' easily turned into 'why not'.

And I felt healthier and happier when I was there. Maybe it was the breathtaking nature surrounding me everyday. Maybe it was the positive energy of the Germans in contrast to the whiny, cynical behaviour of the French. Maybe it was because I loved my job. But I am somehow convinced that organic food played a big role in it. Now that I am back in France and buying organic food is financially challenging, I do not feel as healthy or happy as I was back in Deutschland.

So I am thinking of switching back to organic food, but that will require a substantial budget change. I am not famous for my thrifty ways, and eating organic food will definitely put a huge dent in my wallet. But I guess like it or not, well-being comes at a price.

I cannot get a beautiful home by the river like I had in Germany. I cannot get amazing view of apple and prune farms out of my bedroom window anymore. And I certainly cannot get the sincere smiles people gave me when they said 'moin moin' every day. The only thing I could try to emulate is the food I ate when I was there.

So I am pencilling that into my list of resolutions: eating more organic food.

12 comments:

WP said...

Wow! They cost the same in Germany? I'd like to know how too...

Sir Pök Déng said...

I'm a biotechnologist (and molecular biologist). GMO or GMF is a widely understood term in Europe, causing many public awareness campaigns held against it by many European NGOs concerning consumers health, but not over here in Malaysia. So does the meaning of 'organic food'.

I reckon organic foods sold in most of countries in the world are costly. Only affordable by the rich. Thus, organic food business doesn't produce much profit as non-organic food business does. Our citizens only concern about money in their pocket more than health.

That reminds me of bio-fuel business. Bio-fuel is a lot expensive than normal gas (petrol). You may shove 468,000 words of descriptions of conventional gas negative impact upon environment down their throat, but still they want to stick with conventional one. Money. Money. Money, mate.

Kahuna said...

WP: In Germany they practice this concept of favouring local farming. Instead of importing all kinds of vegetables from all around the world, they would get fruit and vegetable supplies from local farmers around the area and sell them at the supermarket, eliminating the middlemen and transportation costs. But still, even the organic pasta and cereals are at the same price as the normal ones, and those can't possibly be made locally around all areas. So I wonder how they keep those at low prices.

Pok Deng: I'll have to agree that money plays a big role when I decide what to get at the supermarket. As a student, I have to be realistic. But it is true that us Malaysians need to start to think more about how our food is directly related to our health and environment.

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Martin Clooney said...

Organic food is expensive as there are not lot of people buying it..so its really costly to produce them for limited users. If everyone start buying it, result will change.

Buy Organic Food

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Dottie With Dots said...

In Malaysia, I think its the weather. Ciz in Cameron Highland most vegetables and fruits are cheap. Way cheap. But then again, who would want to climb up there to get cheap stuff. Cant blame the midmen as we couldnt be bothered to go there ourselves. We therefore left with those expensive-not-so-healthy normal vegies.

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Sunny said...

Thanks for sharing your experience regarding organic food items.. I too have recently started consuming organic food. As for me, I am feeling a healthy change after turning towards healthy organic food.

jolly Omar said...

Good Post regarding organic Foods, Organic food is expensive as there are not lot of people buying it..so decrease the cost of this than is good for all..

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