Conservatives 09: Soil Association must stop scare tactics

The Soil Association must stop damaging the credentials of conventional farming in an attempt to boost sales of organic produce, NFU president Peter Kendall has said.

Speaking at a Food and Drink Federation fringe meeting at the Conservative party conference in Manchester on Tuesday (6 October), Mr Kendall slammed the organisation for frightening consumers about the chemicals used in conventional farming.

He said conventional and organic systems ought to share best practice and urged the Soil Association to stop its “across-the -board criticism” of non-organic production.

“We need to look at how to work together,” he told the meeting of delegates and industry representatives. “Why does the Soil Association’s unique selling point have to be to criticise conventional farming and say inputs are damaging?

“When you see parents frightened by what they see and hear [about what is put onto crops], it’s not on.

“We see it as a different production system – we don’t criticise others to build on our market share.”

Mr Kendall said the organic sector should also be willing to consider the possible benefits of GM production as a solution to meeting the country’s food demands.

“I look with great interest at what’s happening into research with GM that could lead to us requiring a third of our nutrients to produce the same yields,” he added.

“Where that falls down is one side saying ‘never’ to GM.”

Jim Paice, shadow food and farming minister, said it was “a mistake” that views about GM production had become so polarised.

“We have to do everything we can to encourage GM technology to be developed at a scientific level to see what advantage there is to food safety, nutrition, conservation, inputs and so on,” he said.

While Mr Paice believed GM technology would increasingly become part of conventional British agriculture, it had to be properly tested so consumers could make informed choices, he added.

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