26 September 1997

Green light for organic area

THE government is committed to encouraging a more rapid expansion of organic farming, farm minister Jack Cunningham told delegates at an international organic conference in Oxford on Wednesday.

Dr Cunningham said the governments commitment to the sector was demonstrated by its review of the organic aid scheme which aimed to establish how more rapid conversion to organic farming could be achieved.

Britain would also press for organic support during the CAP reform process that was now under way, he added.

But for those lobbying for maintenance payments for producers already farming organically, Dr Cunningham told them to be realistic about what could be achieved within existing budgets. "These things take time, and the necessity to live within existing resources is inescapable. I am in the same postition as all other ministers in having to stick within spending limits. But I am looking at the flexibility I have within my own departmental budget," he said.

Prince Charles, in a video message to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements conference made a personal plea for genetically modified organisms to be kept out of organic farming. "A great many consumers simply do not want to eat food that has been produced in this way. I certainly dont," he said.

And EU farm commissioner Franz Fischler told the conference in another video message that he was taking a strong stance against the use of genetically modified organisms in organic farming.

He also backed strict labelling regulations to underpin consumer choice.

Mr Fischler said organic farming had a key role to play in a modernised CAP, and was in line with objectives put forward in commissions reform proposals.