Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Friends of the Earth, Swindon (F 5)

  Swindon Friends of the Earth welcome the opportunity to submit evidence to the Agriculture Committee with regard to their inquiry into organic farming in the United Kingdom. We believe that organic farming offers the best approach to sustainable agricultural practice in environmental, social and economic terms.

  We wish to respond to selected matters where the Committee invites evidence.


  1.  Lack of support for organic farming by Government means that less than 1 per cent of land in the UK is farmed organically and demand is outstripping supply. In view of this demand, the Danish Government has proposed a new action plan for its organic farming sector which specifically targets the UK as an export market.

  2.  The Danish Government expects to achieve a target of 10 per cent of agricultural production being organic by 2002. Furthermore, the Danish Agricultural Minister has said he expects 50 per cent of Denmark to be farmed organically by 2010. Already, 20 per cent of dairy production is organic.

  3.  The acting European Union environment commissioner, Ritt Bjerrgaard said a "good start" towards her "personal vision" of a farming future without chemicals, which "pollute the soil, the water and the food chain" would be to triple the area of land farmed organically by 2005. She added that the organic area could be increased to as much as 25 per cent of all agricultural land by 2010 if the right measure were introduced. (ENDS Daily, 28 May 1999)

  4.  There is a clear need for the UK Government to set targets that would bring about more organic conversion. This would aid the ailing rural economy (ie bring about a rural renaissance) and the biological and ecological quality of farmland would be advanced.


  5.  There is a clear indication that customer demand for organic produce is on the increase.

  6.  The UK imports 80 per cent of its organic fruit and vegetables, mostly from other European countries particularly Germany, Holland and Italy. Mostly staples could be grown in the UK.


  7.  The role of the Soil Association is clearly important to advancing organic farming and its certification standards aim to ensure maximum purity of food and superior animal husbandry. As a charity, the Soil Association needs to be recognised and supported by the Government for its expertise in this field.


  8.  The largest threat to organic farming arises from the introduction of Genetically Modified crops into the UK. In order to ensure that there is zero tolerance with regard to any contamination of organic crops from GM crops, measures must be adopted that will ensure that Soil Association organic standards can be met anywhere in the UK. This would indicate that any farmer within a six mile radius of an organic farm should not be allowed to grow GM crops. The voluntary measure and guidelines proposed by the industry group SCIMAC (Supply Chain Initiative on Modified Agricultural Crops) are totally inadequate to protect organic farming whilst the buffers agreed so far for herbicide resistant oil seed rape (200m), sugar and fodder beet (600m) and forage maize (200m) are derisory.

  9.  Farmers who plan to grow GM crops should initiate and pay for a search of, at least, a six mile radius of their farm in order to ensure that no organic farming is compromised by his/her intention. This would need to be undertaken on a yearly basis in order to ensure that farmers who have applied for organic accreditation and who are in the process of conversion are not forgotten.

  10.  There is a need to ensure that farmers and/or the GM seed producers should be held liable for any contamination of organic crops.


  11.  Restructuring the charging regime for Meat Hygiene Service inspections. There has been great consternation among organic farmers (and others) who have concerns for animal welfare, that includes the transportation of livestock to abattoirs, that small to medium size abattoirs will be forced to close as a result of the Pooley Committee recommendations to MAFF. Closure of small abattoirs will also have an adverse affect on those who undertake animal husbandry on a small scale as many organic small-holders do. We request that Government ensure that small and medium sized abattoirs are treated fairly in the proposed system of charging for inspection of premises.

19 May 2000

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 24 January 2001