Survey message: Mind the organic gap

A survey has found that almost one third of Welsh children had never heard of organic food and only half could identify any characteristics of food produced using organic farming and production methods.

The study, commissioned by Organic Centre Wales as part of its campaign to promote the benefits of buying organic produce, involved interviews with more than 500 children between the ages of seven and 15 from across Wales.

Awareness of organic food was significantly higher in rural mid-Wales (85%), while the lowest percentage (51%) was recorded from children in the Valleys (51%). There was a big difference in awareness between children in primary education (7-10 yrs, 37%) and secondary (11-15yrs, 81%), while Welsh-speaking children of all ages were the group that showed the highest level of awareness (86%).

“As a country that is proud of our achievements on the environment and developing policies that promote sustainability, this survey highlights an area of our children’s education that needs some urgent attention,” said Jane Powell who heads up schools activity for Organic Centre Wales. “As a relatively new body we have been working directly with schools and local education authorities to promote awareness and understanding of organic production and why it is important but this survey shows just how much more work there is to be done.”

Wales punches well above its weight in terms of organic production. Welsh farmers continue to allocate around 8% of all agricultural land for organic production – twice as much as the rest of the UK. Some of Wales’s leading food brands, including dairy producers like Rachel’s and Calon Wen, use organic methods and sales of organic lamb and poultry have continued to increase, despite the difficult economic times.

Of the children who were aware of organic produce, almost a quarter (24%) recognised that it was grown with fewer herbicides/pesticides/chemicals, while 19% responded that it was “more naturally produced”.  14% of the same group felt that organically produced food was “healthier” but none of the respondents in the survey, who were unprompted in their interviews, made the direct link between organic production and benefits to the environment or to better animal welfare standards.

Picture: Welsh school children visit an organic farm