13 August 1999

More for organics: Meacher

ENVIRONMENT minister Michael Meacher has spoken out against the lack of government funding for the organic farming scheme, saying there is a "strong economic case" for producing more organic food.

The OFS opened in April to provide payments to help producers to convert from conventional farming. But the numbers applying for funds overwhelmed the schemes £6m first-year budget.

The lack of cash has been branded disgraceful by the pro-organic body the Soil Association. Until now, ministers have refused to question whether funding needed to be increased.

But Mr Meacher told Londons Evening Standard newspaper this week that he was in favour of giving increased help to organic farmers.

"There is clearly a demand for organic produce and a strong economic case to produce more of what the public wants."

He said the public was suspicious about the use of pesticides, fertilisers, additives and preservatives. And he was worried about chemicals in the environment and suggested links between certain chemicals and cancer.

A spokeswoman for the Soil Association welcomed Mr Meachers comments. The government had to end the situation where British farmers faced an uphill struggle when competing for market share against organic farmers from abroad, she said.