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Debating food choice influence

Published on 15th February 2011

Guild member Graham Harvey played a highly visible role in a Soil Association conference as a panel member, writes Adrian Bell. The panel was invited to answer the question: Should We Influence Food Choices?

Chaired by Rose Prince of The Daily Telegraph, Graham featured in a lively debate alongside representatives from Waitrose, Co-operatives UK and the founder – as seen on Channel 4 – of ‘The People’s Supermarket’, Arthur Potts Dawson.

Fearlessness and honesty are two of the attributes required to properly ‘sell’ the choices available to today’s consumer, Graham proposed, saying it is a tragedy that the Soil Association has become seen simply as the ‘guardian of the organic brand’.

Citing the recent example of the research findings from Newcastle University showing the difference in levels of essential fatty acids between organic and non-organic milk, he said: “The Soil Association should explain the issues about cows on grass fearlessly – it’s not simply a defence of the organic brand. Taking cows off grass is against the consumer interest,” pointing out that the current situation with the proposed Nocton ‘mega dairy’ presents ‘a wonderful opportunity’.

Influence of food choice had, in any case, been in the spotlight for years, Graham pointed out. “It should become impossible for [Graham Cassie, Waitrose] to put non-grass fed cows’ milk on his shelves, in the same way as we’ve now come to accept that eggs from battery hens do not appear on shelves.”

Graham, a former reporter and feature writer for Farmers Weekly, is the author of two books – The Killing of the Countryside and The Carbon Fields. He is also the agricultural story editor for The Archers.

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