11 April 2001
Government organic policy is ‘woolly’

By Isabel Davies

THE governments response to a select committee inquiry into the organic sector is full of woolly words and lacking in vision, claim organic campaigners.

The Organic Targets Bill campaign said the government had missed an opportunity by not committing to an action plan for the sector.

The governments response, released on Tuesday (10 April), promised to make sure funding for the Organic Farming Scheme was more orderly.

It included a pledge to undertake an independent evaluation of the scheme to examine its objectives as well as look at its efficiency and effectiveness.

But Catherine Fookes, campaign co-ordinator from Sustain, said the group was disappointed by the governments failure to commit to an organic action plan.

“A strategic action plan would help to smooth out some of the bottlenecks that exist in the sector,” she said.

“It would provide direction to other government departments and encourage more businesses in the food chain to convert to organics.”

The Soil Association was less critical of the reply, claiming that at least it answered the point put forward by the select committee fairly comprehensively.

A spokesman said the organisation was pleased to see an acknowledgement that organic systems had philosophical roots and are not entirely science based.

It also welcomed the governments comment that it would look at increasing research and development funds for the sector.

But the association was disappointed that the reply did not go further on an organic stewardship scheme, he admitted.

“We need more meat on the bones of that issue,” he insisted.

The targets bill campaign aims to persuade the government to commit to a target of 30% of land in England and Wales to be organic by 2010.

A private members bill setting out the challenge has already been introduced by Simon Thomas MP (Plaid Cynru, Ceredigion).

A second reading is expected 11 May.