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
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
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