A bold new action plan for organic food production to help build a more sustainable farming future and regenerate the rural economy is being launched for Scotland.
“Organic Ambitions: An Action Plan for organic food and farming in Scotland 2016-2020” will be unveiled on 27 January.
The new plan will be officially launched on the first day of the Organic Research Centre’s annual conference, being held in Bristol.
Organic Ambitions is a major revision of Organic Futures, an organic action plan produced in 2011 and revised in 2013, which aimed to strengthen Scotland’s organic food sector.
Wendy Seel, chairman of the Scottish Organic Forum, who have built the new plan following an extensive consultation, said: “Organic Ambitions will aim to build knowledge about organics, strength in the organic supply chain and skills across the organic sector.”
However, Ms Seel said its main aim will be to “strengthen the capacity of Scotland’s organic farms to preserve and enhance natural capital, and in-turn to build a more resilient food supply chain”.
Countries such as France, Scotland and Denmark are leading the way in changing their agricultural practices to embrace change.
France, for example, launched its Agroecology Action Plan in 2014. It embraces pesticide and antibiotic reduction, as well as targeting pollinators, organic farming and agroforestry.
Other EU countries have similar action plans, which are linked to pursuing ambitious targets for school food and public procurement. To date, there is no similar action plan for England.
It is estimated that half of the UK’s food will come from overseas within a generation, as a rising population, stalling farm productivity and environmental concerns combine is likely to erode the UK’s self sufficiency in food even further.
While the organic food movement has often been considered niche, research is showing that many of the practices employed in organic production helping to boost not just the quality of food produced by the industry but crucially helping to ensure it has a sustainable future, said Nic Lampkin, executive director of the Organic Research Centre.
Agroecology, which adapts the principles of ecology to managing farming systems, was finding new ways to grow abundant and affordable food while enhancing the environment and farm finances, he explained.
Meanwhile, consumers were increasingly seeking out organic and alternatively grown foods at farmers’ markets and farm shops.
Prof Lampkin said: “To remain resilient, productive and profitable, British agriculture has to change.
“Labels and polarised positions on how we produce our food need to be replaced by the positives of exploring common ground in organic and conventional systems, based on ecological as well as technological innovation.”