Ethics of importing food from apartheid state

One of the suppliers seems to be importing sweet potato from Israel which I regard as unethical. It is widely known that Israel is an apartheid state just as South Africa was and there is a growing movement towards boycotting goods from Israel whenever possible. Given the food network is supposed to have high ethical standards, it doesn’t fit that sweet potatoes grown on militarily occupied land in Israel are being imported to the Uk market. I haven’t placed an order with Roots Fruits and Leaves because of this association. Does anyone else have this concern?

Yes - this is really important - Palestinian civil society calls for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israeli goods - because, as shown with South African apartheid this is ‘the’ most effective way to stop the terrible Israeli state oppression - manifold but recently manifest in the murder of over 100 unarmed protesters by snipers in Gaza.

Thanks for the comments on this!

The Open Food Network UK currently puts the emphasis on the enterprises themselves and their communities to define what it ethical, so I will certainly pass these comments on to Root, Fruits and Leaves.

I think it is very important that we have these conversations and feel it will be great for our community to start to define what we think ethical is. It would be great to have a place in which we develop these thoughts and questions so that we can start to collectively define and reflect.

@Lousid @odemps Would either of you be interested in helping us do that on this forum? Perhaps we can create a post specifically for these discussions more broadly?

Hi @Lynne.OFN.Tech
I agree it is an important area to discuss. I would need a bit more idea of what you have in mind before committing. I’m about to leave the UK for a month so time and energy will be restricted.

I have just found out that Riverford Veg have a company wide, strict policy which prohibits them from selling any product from Israel. They do not import or sell any products from Israel.

Hi @Lousid
Essentially my suggestion would be to create a new post called ‘OFN UK Community Ethics’. Then you could like a set of questions that OFN can then ask the community to answer. As a top line we are asking what the OFN UK community considers a necessary prerequisite set of standards for produce to be available on the platform.

It will be important to remember that enterprises come to the Open Food Network for different reasons. We need to be considerate of different motivations - some Hubs aim to sell affordable produce to people on low incomes and hence will sell imported grain from other parts of the world that is not organic to make wholefoods more affordable. Other hubs wish to sell only organic produce. OFN UK is committed to achieving Food Sovereignty and fundamental to this is not propagating a class system in access to food. Finding the right balance between inclusivity and trust in quality is a very hard exercise!

There are a few options - we can expand our labelling system to make certain standards (positive and negative) very clear. We can ban certain types of products from the platform. And we can introduce labels that indicate aspirations eg ‘Agroecological Practices’

A first step will be thinking about the kinds of open questions we wish to ask. We can expand this but a first stab would be great.

Questions might include:

What are our standards on animal welfare?

How do we react to produce from states with lower human rights and labour standards?

How local is local? 30miles? 100miles?