19 April 2002

Twologos for greenest food

By Tom Allen-Stevens

FARMERS who restore hedgerows and have a responsible attitude towards the environment could soon get recognition on the supermarket shelf. Two food labels have been launched for farmers who exceed the requirements of the British Farm Standards Little Red Tractor logo.

Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) has announced it has received a £175,000 government grant to help set up a green assurance scheme with a label for food from environmentally friendly farms. Meanwhile, Scottish dairy farmers are to supply milk to a supermarket under a label from the Wildlife Trusts.

The LEAF Marque logo, which will initially cover just fruit, vegetables and possibly meat, has already won support of Waitrose, Marks and Spencer and Safeway. It will be launched to 1500 LEAF farmers later this year, with roll-out in stores planned for early 2003.

The Wildlife Trusts scheme will reward 60 Ayrshire farmers who supply milk to Sainsburys under a "White and Wild" label. The farmers will receive a small premium for their milk. They were selected from producers who restore hedges, revive ponds and do other environmental work .

The two schemes are separate from the Little Red Tractor logo, which came under fire from animal rights campaigners yesterday (Thur, Apr 18). A report from the pressure group Compassion in World Farming claims that the tractor logo, which is backed by the NFU, guarantees little in the area of animal welfare.

Assurance schemes underpinned by the Little Red Tractor allow farming systems with poor animal welfare, the report claims. These include narrow farrowing crates for breeding pigs, higher stocking densities for broiler chickens than government guidelines and unsuitable breeds and animal mutilations.

Actress Joanna Lumley drove a red tractor to NFU headquarters in London for the launch of the report. CIWF director Joyce DSilva said: "The only advice we can give to consumers is to ignore the Little Red Tractor mark completely and insist on free range or organic produce".

But NFU representative Jonathan Tipples, who sits on the board of Assured Food Standards and helps oversee the tractor logo, said: "Lets just remember where CIWF is coming from. It would rather we did not keep any animals for food production. We think we operate perfectly acceptable welfare standards and the Farm Animal Welfare Council agrees."

Assured Food Standards is examining the tractor schemes standards compared to other environmental rules. But Mr Tipples dismissed suggestions that the LEAF scheme clashed with the tractor logo. "We are about environmental protection," he said. "The LEAF marque is concerned with environmental enhancement." &#42