Solo on organics

Passion for organic food in Russia, in contrast to Europe and America, is far from being widespread. However, interest in it is growing – despite the high cost and the crisis. The first organic sprouts have already appeared on the local market. 

The phrase “organic food”, which irritates chemists and biologists so much, appeared 60 years ago. It all started with Lord Walter James Northbourne, who in 1939 came up with the concept of the farm as an organism, and from there derived organic farming as opposed to chemical farming. The Lord Agronomist developed his idea in three books and became known as one of the fathers of a new type of agriculture. The English botanist Sir Albert Howard, the American media tycoon Jerome Rodale and others, mostly rich and eminent, also actively participated in the process. 

Until the end of the 80s in the West, organic farms and their products were mainly interested in new-age followers and vegetarians. In the early stages, they were forced to buy eco-food directly from producers – small farms who decided to move to a more natural way of growing crops. At the same time, the quality of the products and the conditions of their production were checked personally by the client. There was even a motto “Know your farmer – you know your food.” Since the beginning of the 90s, the segment began to develop much more actively, sometimes growing by 20% per year and overtaking other areas of the food market in this indicator. 

A significant contribution to the development of the direction was made by the initiatives of the united Europe, which back in 1991 adopted the rules and standards for the production of organic farms. The Americans reacted with their regulatory collection of documents only in 2002. Changes have gradually affected the ways of producing and distributing eco-products: large corporate farms began to connect to the first, and selected supermarket chains to the second. Public opinion began to favor the fashion fad: ecologically perfect food was promoted by movie stars and popular musicians, the middle class calculated the benefits of healthy eating and agreed to overpay for it from 10 to 200%. And even those who can’t afford organic food found it to be cleaner, tastier, and more nutritious. 

By 2007, the organic market reported more than 60 countries with the necessary regulatory and regulatory documents in place, annual earnings of $46 billion and 32,2 million hectares occupied by organic farms. True, the latter indicator, compared with traditional chemical agriculture, amounted to only 0,8% of the global volume. The organic food movement is gaining momentum, as is the business activity associated with it. 

It is clear that eco-food will not reach the mass consumer soon. Many scientists are skeptical about the idea: they point to the lack of a proven advantage of organic food over conventional food in terms of vitamins and minerals useful for humans, and they also believe that organic agriculture is not able to feed the population of the entire planet. In addition, due to the lower yield of organic matter, larger areas will have to be allocated for its production, causing additional harm to the environment. 

Of course, eco-food scientists have their own research that refutes the arguments of their fellow skeptics, and the choice for the average person interested in the topic turns into a matter of belief in one or another concept. At the peak of mutual accusations, organic supporters and their opponents moved to a conspiracy level: eco-skeptics hint that their opponents do not care about nature, but simply promote new producers, discrediting old ones along the way, and eco-enthusiasts answer that the righteous fury of skeptics is paid for by chemical companies and suppliers of ordinary food who are afraid of competition and loss of sales markets. 

For Russia, large-scale discussions about the benefits or uselessness of organic food with the involvement of experts from the scientific world are practically irrelevant: according to some fans of organic nutrition, our lagging behind the rest of the world in this matter is 15-20 years. Until recently, a minority who did not want to chew anything, considered it a great success if they managed to make a personal acquaintance with some farmer living not too far from the city and become his regular client. And in this case, the sufferer received only village food, which does not necessarily correspond to the high rank of organic food, because the farmer could use chemistry or antibiotics in its manufacture. Accordingly, no state regulation of eco-food standards existed and still does not actually exist. 

Despite such difficult conditions, in 2004-2006 several specialized stores for fans of organic products opened in Moscow – this can be considered the first notable attempt to launch a local organic fashion. The most notable of them were the eco-market “Red Pumpkin”, opened with great fanfare, as well as the Moscow branch of the German “Biogurme” and “Grunwald” made taking into account German developments. “Pumpkin” closed after a year and a half, “Biogurme” lasted two. Grunwald turned out to be the most successful, however, it changed its name and store design, becoming “Bio-Market”. Vegetarians have sprung up specialty stores too, such as the Jagannath Health Food Store, a place where you can find even the rarest vegetarian products. 

And, although lovers of organic food in multimillion-dollar Moscow continue to make up a very small percentage, however, there are so many of them that this industry continues to develop. Chain supermarkets try to join specialty stores, but usually stumble on pricing. It is clear that you cannot sell eco-food cheaper than a certain level set by the manufacturer, which is why sometimes you have to pay three to four times more for it than for ordinary products. Supermarkets, on the other hand, are not able to abandon the practice of making multiple profits and increasing volumes – the whole mechanism of their trade rests on this. In such a situation, individual organic lovers take the process into their own hands and achieve good results in a fairly short time.

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