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Britain steps up campaign to promote sustainable diet
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Eating out-of-season food is often seen as an extravagant treat, which has been discouraged in Britain due to its price, taste and especially environmental impacts.

And now a campaign, called "Eat Seasonably" has been launched across the country to encourage people to consume seasonal produce.

The campaign is backed by the government, major supermarkets and small market stall-holders alike, as well as cafes, pubs, restaurants and some of the nation's favourite charities.

Also on board are leading food organizations and top British chefs, including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Gregg Wallace and Valentine Warner.

To encourage the consumption of seasonal food, the campaign promotes its better taste and better value. It has won the support of top chefs, who agree that fresh seasonal produce tastes better.

Market research results also show that choosing seasonal food is cost effective, as a basket of fruit and vegetables bought in the summer can be as much as a third cheaper than the same basket bought out of season.

Green campaign

More importantly, eating seasonably is publicized as a way of eating more sustainably.

This green lifestyle is based on the fact that growing fruit and vegetables in season requires lower levels of artificial resources such as heating, lighting, pesticides and fertilizers than needed at other times of the year.

A simple but significant step toward a more sustainable diet is to eat more fruit and vegetables when they are seasonally available, as they generally require less energy to produce and tend to cost less, according to a research by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

"We enjoy picking strawberries to eat in the summer, and a lot of us enjoy Brussels sprouts with our Christmas dinner," Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said.

"Food does taste best when it's eaten in season, so this campaign is a great way for people to enjoy meals and treats using local and seasonal produce, as well as to discover more about where their food comes from," Benn said.

The campaign is also seen as the first step in encouraging Britons to think more about the wider environmental implications of their diet.

It offers information on ways to decrease the impact of the food people choose. It calls for buying organic produce to support green farming and cutting down on the consumption of meat, the production of which creates significant emissions.

Choosing fish from sustainable sources, and replacing bottled water with tap water is also being encouraged as ways to reduce the carbon footprint of people's lifestyle.

Linked to the campaign is the "Big Lunch," which will take place on July 19. It encourages people across Britain to set up street parties and tuck into locally grown, made or bought food and drink with friends and neighbors in streets, parks and church halls.

Ethical choices in recession

Britain has set an ambitious goal to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

In agriculture, such cuts can only be achieved by deriving fertility from sunshine and organic matter -- as organic farmers do -- rather than from fossil fuel-based chemical fertilizers, the policy director of British Soil Association, Peter Melchett, said.

Melchett has called for more work to be done to promote the wider benefits of organic production to the public, especially in relation to health, animal welfare, climate change and the environment.

He also pointed out that the economic downturn has increased the profile of "single issue market alternatives such as free-range, local, pesticide-free, fair trade, seasonal and natural" foods.

Consumers have plenty of different ethical options -- so many, in fact, that the choice can be bewildering, he said in a 2009 organic market report published by the Soil Association.

To reduce this confusion, he called on the organic movement to demonstrate more forcefully than ever that organic principles encompass all these single issues, and deliver a set of interlocking benefits that can motivate consumers.

Where understanding of these interlocking benefits is limited, consumer commitment may be limited too -- particularly in tough times, he said.

Importantly for the British market, the report shows that there is a core of consumers who are in no mood to ditch their commitment to organic products.

Instead, they are far more likely to cut their spending on eating out, leisure activities and holidays than to reduce what they spend on organic food, according to the report.

They would rather economize by buying cheaper cuts of organic meat or by buying frozen organic vegetables than by compromising their organic principles, Melchett said.

The British organic market continued to grow in the first half of 2008 but sales dipped from late summer onwards as a consequence of high food price inflation and economic uncertainty.

In 2008 retail sales of organic products in Britain were worth an estimated 2.1 billion pounds (some 3 billion U.S. dollars), an increase of 1.7 percent on 2007, according to the 2009 organic market report.

However, the overall growth in organic sales by value masks a net decline in the sales volume of a number of categories of organic food products during the year, Melchett said.

In some other European countries the credit crunch appears to have hit less hard so far, and demand for organic products has held up better than in Britain. However, It is difficult to predict how the global organic market will fare in 2009, Melchett said.

Organic farmlands account for 3.9 percent of the British agricultural land area, higher than 0.65 percent on a global perspective.

Organic farming is practiced in more than 140 countries by some 1.2 million farms.

(Xinhua News Agency June 2, 2009)

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