26 October 2001
Greens slam ‘Red Tractor’ standard

By Adrienne Francis

ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners have renewed their calls for the British Farm Standard to give better assurances about the food on which it appears.

Friends of the Earth claims that the “Little Red Tractor” standards are not providing genuine help to farmers or clear benefits to consumers.

The group wants the scheme to include targets for pesticide reduction and ban pesticides harmful to human health and the environment.

Food within the scheme should be British, free from genetically modified organisms, and labelled to show the country of origin, it added.

Livestock standards should also be raised to an equivalent to RSPCA Freedom Foods mark, said a spokeswoman for the group.

Reformed labelling would reflect genuine higher standards, providing better consumer information about which food can be trusted, she said.

The National Farmers Union expressed surprise that FOE had not raised the issues with Assured Food Standards – the company that oversees the logo.

“Friends of the Earth is wrong on two counts. Only British food is licensed to use the logo,” said an NFU spokesman.

“And no GM crops are grown commercially in the UK – therefore no food carrying the logo is from GM crops.

“Attempts to damage the UK market in this way can only lead to further imported food, where assurance schemes simply dont exist.

The Little Red Tractor operates over 1100 independent checks covering animal welfare, food safety and the environment, said the spokesman.

Assured Food Standards chief executive David Clarke suggested that the complaints could be counterproductive to the schemes success.

“We are conscious of these limitations, and it is probably a good thing that Friends of the Earth is encouraging the scheme to go a bit further,” he said.

“But it is a shame that some non-government organisations are unwilling to talk about what we are doing to move forward on these issues.”

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