Soil Association calls on government to support organic farming as UK is lagging behind Europe

The UK is "bottom of the league" when it comes to support for organic food and farming, a new report from the Soil Association has claimed.

The report, named 'The Lazy Man of Europe,' was launched this week at the Soil Association’s national conference.

It states that UK governments have been diffident, if not lazy on the subject – while most European countries have acted confidently to normalise and champion organic food and farming as a pioneering, sustainable and environmentally friendly way to produce food.

It also states that – while sales of organic in the UK suffered in the recession  –other large markets in Europe did not.

Tthe organic market in Austria, Denmark, France, Germany and Switzerland - for example - continued to grow in 2009 despite the recession.

The Soil Association claimed that these are countries where governments and official agencies think it normal to back organic food and farming, and the benefits are clearly recognised.

It is therefore calling on the UK Government to follow suit and also recognise the benefits and back organic food and farming.

Peter Melchett, Soil Association policy director, said:

"The Coalition government has pledged ‘to be the greenest government ever’ and the new Agriculture Minister, Jim Paice said recently that organic principles lead the way on sustainable farming, and that organic farming should be fostered for this reason."

"The results of our investigation provide a blueprint for the new Government to live up to its pledge, and to move the UK from the bottom of the European league table when it comes to backing organic."

 The Soil Association’s believes:

  • The UK Government should welcome the organic market as an important growth area for the UK economy.
  • The UK Government should introduce a cross-departmental food strategy which recognises the role of organic and agro-ecological farming in producing food in a resource-constrained world.
  • The Department of Health should help consumers make both healthy and environmentally sustainable food choices, including advice to eat organic, local and seasonal food.
  • The UK Government should endorse the Food for Life Catering Mark, and ensure that public food procurement standards meet at least the Food for Life silver standard, which guarantees the use of seasonal, freshly prepared produce and some use of organic food.
  • Changes to Pillar 1 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments should include a core element of support for organic farming.
  • Defra should re-establish a dedicated research budget to provide practical solutions to the problems organic farmers and businesses face.
  • The UK Government should match any industry funding of generic promotional initiatives for organic in order to maximise the UK’s use of available EU funding, and use the market to deliver public benefits.

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