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Project to make true cost of food visible to UK consumers

A pioneering project launched by retailer Whole Foods Market together with organic fresh produce firm Nature & More is aiming to make the true costs of fruits and vegetables visible to UK consumers on the shop floor for the first time.

Nature & More argues that much of the fruits and vegetables currently available in the UK are sold far too cheaply and conceal negative environmental and social impacts. Consulting firms write hefty social impact reports for companies, but the actual hidden costs at product level are not shared with consumers. 

That was, until now: Nature & More’s project, in cooperation with Whole Foods Market, aims to convince UK consumers that organic food is not too expensive, but rather that conventional food is too cheap.

Beginning in May, pears, pineapples, oranges and lemons in supermarkets across Europe are for the first time displaying information cards that show the true price of food. In the UK, these cards are being included with organic Nature & More pears at Whole Foods. 

The cards, which as well as the UK are being featured in stores in Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Finland and the Netherlands, show a flower whose six petals illustrate the monetary costs to the climate, water, soil, biodiversity, social cohesion and health of conventional fruits and vegetables. 

For direct comparison, the cards also display the substantially lower ‘true’ costs of production for organic fresh produce from the same region. 

Nature & More CEO Volkert Engelsman said: "The importance of this information is considerable because we are not currently getting an accurate picture of the actual cost of food production.” 

Taking the example of pear production in Argentina (supplier of substantial volumes of pears to the UK), Engelsman said: "Consider the climate costs – artificial fertilizer and pesticides are used in their cultivation. These are made with fossil fuels which lead to carbon dioxide emissions. At the same time, farmers are not required to compost to keep the soil fertile, so less carbon dioxide is stored in the soil." 

Hidden costs 
Such effects can now be calculated in terms of costs. In 2014, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation developed a method to calculate the hidden costs of food production. 

Results from the investigation were included in a table from which the costs of water use, water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, among other factors, could be calculated. 

Using this method, Nature & More has calculated that the hidden climate change-linked costs of an acre of a non-organic pears in Argentina amounted to £987 per year. The hidden costs related to water pollution and soil erosion were estimated at £236 and £365 per acre respectively. 

Taxpayers ultimately have to pay the costs that governments incur for water purification and irrigation water subsidies or those costs get pushed into the future when subsequent generations will have to pay for them – with interest.

Nature & More has also calculated the true costs for pears produced by its organic grower Hugo Sanchez in Argentina’s Rio Negro Valley. In total, Nature & More’s organic pears delivered a social advantage of at least £718 per acre of orchard, with costs for biodiversity, health and social effects not even included in this figure. Per kilo, Nature & More’s organic pears delivered an advantage of at least 4.4p per kilo despite a 17% lower production per acre. 

Engelsman added: "The numbers prove our point: organic food is not too expensive, conventional food is too cheap!" 

Nature & More parent company Eosta supplies certified organic produce to wholesalers and retailers in the UK and across Europe, as well as organic greenhouse crops to the USA and the Far East. 

Eosta products carry a unique three digit code that provides consumers with direct web access to detailed information about the producer and his ecological and social impact, under the "trace and tell" trademark Nature & More. 

For more info about the True Cost of Food campaign, see

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