19 October 1999
MPs bid to set organic targets

By FWi staff

A NEW parliamentary bill will be launched today which aims to boost organic farming and turn it into one of Britains main methods of food production.

The bill will call for a target and strategy to massively increase chemical-free farming by providing the infrastructure, research and support for organic production.

The Organic Targets Bill aims to ensure that by 2010 at least 30% of UK farmland and 20% of our food is produced by organic farming systems.

It is being supported by a wide range of groups including the Soil Association, Friends of the Earth, the Pesticides Trust, and Transport and General Workers Union.

The bill will be unveiled today and presented to the House of Commons tomorrow (Wednesday) as a Presentation Bill.

Supporters of the bill claim it will benefit producers, by supporting existing organic farmers and helping numerous conventional farmers that are keen to convert.

Despite the fact that demand for organic food is soaring, only around 1.5% of UK farmland is under organic production.

More than 2000 farmers would like to convert to organic farming, but are deterred by the cost of converting which can take up to five years.

In England, government money to help farmers convert ran out after only six months, and no new money is expected until 2001.

“Despite the fact that organic farming is good for jobs, the environment and people, Government support remains woeful,” said Charles Secrett of Friends of the Earth.

“British farmers must be given the help they need to meet the growing demand for organic food.”

Patrick Holden, Director of the Soil Association, said organic food and farming was the one bright light on the horizon while Britains farmers remained in deep crisis.

“It seems unbelievable that the Government is consistently failing to do more to support this rapidly expanding market,” he said.

An Early Day Motion to be tabled on Wednesday in support of the Bill already has cross party support from more than 60 MPs.