The Soil Association mooted the idea at its annual conference last week in a bid to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions. It proposed labelling organic food with the distance it has travelled from farm to supermarket shelf. M&S has already committed to both steps in its £200m investment in green initiatives.
"There is strong demand, from the public and many of our licensees to reduce food miles," said Soil Association director Patrick Holden. "Little organic produce travels by plane."
But the Fresh Produce Consortium said people needed to be sensible about food miles. "They are not the only part of a product's carbon footprint," said Nigel Jenney. "If the product is labelled so consumers can make up their own minds, are we saying the plane wouldn't otherwise have flown? In fact, produce is often flown in the hold of passenger aircraft that would have gone anyway."
Dutch produce giant The Greenery welcomed plans to give consumers more information, but said the distance food had travelled did not equate to environmental damage.
"Transporting something by air could be doing more environmental damage than transporting something by sea but a food miles label would favour the air freight," said a spokesman.
The NFU warned against putting too much information on the label.
"The idea is a good one, but I wonder if it confuses people in the end," said horticulture board chairman Richard Hirst. "Let's just encourage people to buy from the UK."
Hirst also warned a ban on air-freighting fresh produce could create shortages and supply problems.
A Soil Association committee will examine the idea in the next 12 months.