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Wednesday, 24 January, 2001, 17:17 GMT
Organic food industry 'out of control'
organic carrots
Claims over organic food must be tested, say MPs
There are growing fears that the boom in demand for organic food is leading to a loss of control by the industry over its traditional values, MPs warned on Wednesday.

The threat comes from more commercially orientated farmers and the supermarkets, as they become ever more dominant in the market, according to the cross-party agriculture select committee.

But these difficulties can be solved by the industry acknowledging the fears, and by working towards better supplier relationships and stronger producer-controlled co-operatives, MPs say.


it is perhaps true that the public has a perception of organic farming that is, at least partly, mythical

Agriculture select committee

The committee says the organic industry must develop its ability to market products effectively so that they appeal not because of sentiment, but because of proven benefits.

Its inquiry into organic farming states that it is a "common perception" that organic means pesticide and chemical-free.

In fact, it simply means farming without artificial pesticides; those produced from natural chemicals may be used.

In the same way, there is a significant list of non-organic processing aids which may be used in manufacturing organic products and a tolerance level of 5% cent non-organic ingredients in processed products labelled as organic.

organic ice cream
MPs consider growing taste for organic food
"This is not to accuse the organic movement of misleading the public, but it is perhaps true that the public has a perception of organic farming that is, at least partly, mythical," the report says.

"We believe it is important that the claims can be tested and verified in order that consumers know what they are really buying."

Catherine Fookes, from Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming, said: "We are delighted that the committee agrees that an action plan is needed for organic farming.

"Without an action plan UK farmers will continue to lose out to overseas competitors."

Disappointment

Friends of the Earth food campaigner Sandra Bell said: "We are disappointed that the committee's report falls short of recommending targets for organic farming.

"However, it contains some sound advice, not least that a more strategic approach is needed to develop the organic sector and more resources should be put into training and research to maximise the considerable benefits of organic farming."

New jobs

David Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said: "There are several sound reasons for supporting the organic targets bill.

"For example, by creating up to 16,000 jobs the bill will benefit rural economies and in reducing pesticide use it will help the environment and wildlife."

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See also:

20 Dec 00 | Americas
US adopts organic food code
11 Sep 00 | Business
Organic food boom predicted
11 Aug 00 | UK
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