Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 14

Memorandum submitted by the BDAA/Demeter Symbol Scheme (F 18)

1.  MARKET TRENDS AND CUSTOMER DEMAND

  From experience gained since 1970 through the Bio-dynamic Agricultural Association's Demeter/Organic UK Certification Scheme (UKROFS approved since 1989), there is clear evidence of strong customer preference for locally grown fresh and processed Organic Farm and Market Garden produce of all classes, particularly also that with a regional identity of some kind. Demeter certified farms are managed consciously as largely self-contained units, with minimal imports and a region-specific policy including development of local breeds and plant varieties, as well as the preservation of balanced bio-diversity in farm landscapes. This approach applies equally to large or small units (as well as proving successful in third world agriculture), and the direction in agricultural development thus appears to be appropriate for the new customer and ecological demand both nationally and internationally.

2.  THE ROLE OF ORGANIC CERTIFICATION ORGANISATIONS

  In simple terms organic and bio-dynamic production standards offer repeated short-term targets for urgent ethical and environmental changes in conventional farming systems. This also brings much-needed new and successful markets for agricultural and horticultural produce, as well as customer confidence. The Organic Sector Bodies have thus become "Agents for Change and Development". Much of the real costs of this development process are born by the sector bodies themselves (with help from producers and consumers).

3.  THE SETTING OF ORGANIC STANDARDS AND TOLERANCES

  The BDAA/Demeter UK Standards Organisation works increasingly closely with "Demeter International", relating to at least 38 other countries, and is possibly unique in this respect. This begins the heavy practical task of integrating world-wide Demeter/Organic and Ecological Standards for production of food. This process began in 1928 with the launching of Demeter Standards in Germany. Unifying of organic standards in Europe began with EC Regulation 2092/91 in the early 1990's. But it is disturbing to hear of recent UK "academic" opinion inferring possible risks of E-Coli infection arising from use of animal manures in "organic farming", this indicates (a) a surprisingly naive and ill-informed view of the real importance of efficient composting and manure management standards, much developed, and part of, bio-dynamic and organic agriculture and (b) a lack of understanding of the risks involved in the widespread use of raw slurrys and uncomposted manures of all kinds in conventional agriculture in UK.

4.  THE ROLE OF FARM ASSURANCE SCHEMES

  Farm Assurance Schemes, as such, are valuable in so far as they go, in improving consumer confidence, but, like "cosmetic" environmental improvement schemes, they do not penetrate deeply into the actual foundation husbandry on a farm, which is the very purpose of Organic Standards.

5.  THE AVAILABILITY AND SUITABILITY OF PUBLIC AND PRIVATE ASSISTANCE FOR ORGANIC CONVERSION

  It is only slowly being understood that organic and bio-dynamic farming is an agricultural development, not the sideline creation of a "Niche market", therefore the availability and suitability of public and private assistance for "conversion" is, in reality, of high priority, particularly for the reasons outlined in 2 earlier.

6.  OUTLETS AND DISTRIBUTION SYSTEMS FOR ORGANIC PRODUCE AND PRICING

  We find in the BDAA/Demeter working practice that: outlets and distribution systems have to be created, inspected, informed, certified, rather than just happening, as we go through each case of Farm or Market Garden conversion in specific areas. This process is equally important for smaller-scale retail availability of certified produce as it is for larger supermarket outlets, as the two systems work in parallel on a different basis. Once "critical mass" of production is appearing in an area, very active work is required by Certification Bodies to Inspect, Certify and help the new emerging distribution system to comply with EC Regulations (eg farmers, abattoirs, meat plants, processing/packing and retail outlets). The subject of "correct" price is controversial and complex, and again requires a new understanding. The relationship between World Economics and World Ecology was identified in a book of the same title by W J Stein in 1938, and this connection becomes more and more significant as time goes on. The contemporary step in making some progress in appropriate pricing of organic foods can be seen in the establishment of Producer/Consumer Associations and "Community Supported Agriculture" Initiatives (CSA), now common in organic agriculture worldwide (see USA), but the subject may be further understood in more detail through books such as "Towards Social Renewal" by Rudolf Steiner (published by Anthroposophic Press). Much useful early work was done in this respect by the late Scottish businessman Daniel N. Dunlop (1868-1935), former Chairman of the First World Power Conference in 1922.

7.  IMPORTS AND EXPORTS OF ORGANIC FOODS

  Much help in a developing situation can be obtained from controlled Import/Export of certified produce, provided organic production and processing standards are internationally unified/agreed and understood. However, the ultimate aim appears better directed towards National (and Regional) sustainability in high-quality basic foods, using the semi-closed "Farm Organism" as a model for further development: to include the "diversification" of on-farm processing and packing, with emphasis on organic certified seeds, ongoing fertility, and health, as priority factors.

8.  LIKELY FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS

  Again from ongoing observations in relation to practice in Organic-based production compared with conventional: A closer and closer relationship emerges between nutrition and health, in that many serious human, and animal, health problems seem to be nutritionally-linked directly or indirectly. At the same time the healing power of "the plant" is far from fully understood. People, as consumers in the Western World, are asking more and more carefully directed questions regarding the origin and production practices of their daily food, as well as the ecological impact that results from these practices. It could be, therefore, that if links are recognised between "World Ecology" and "World Economics", a further link may be established between these factors and human health itself. The case at this present time, and looking towards a realistic future, is strong for the firm establishment of worldwide, and highly sensitive Organic Standards for food production and for research into the resulting economics and social implications.

6 June 2000


 
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