Memorandum submitted by St Nicholas Court
Sales of organic produce continue to grow in
the UK, and the majority of this demand continues to be met by
imports (around 80 per cent). Why?
Organic produce is cheaper to grow elsewhere
in Europe and major buyers tend to source principally on price.
Why is this produce so much cheaper?
Organic rules vary from country to country.
By its very nature organic production restricts the use of modern
scientific products and techniques, but these restrictions are
not common around the world. The EU has laid down minimum standards
for organic production with and imports into the EU. Bodies in
the UK, which set the standards in the UK, choose to exceed the
EU minima in many ways, thus increasing the cost of organic production
in the UK.
It should therefore, be argued that before any
public money is spent on further organic conversions, that the
hurdles are lowered to a common EU standard. If this were to happen,
more land would become available, costs of production would reduce
and the price premium required would also reduce.
In addition, it is important that organic agriculture
is recognised for what it is: a marketing opportunity. It allows
the well fed westerner to feel good about him or herself.
Total productivity of an organic system is,
at best, 60 per cent of that under conventional agriculture. Global
food surpluses are not of the same magnitude, and therefore wholesale
organic agriculture is not sustainable. There is virtually no
more land which could be taken into production and yet populations
continue to grow. Productivity must increase, not decrease.
Food safety and animal welfare are also issues.
Organic marketing stresses the healthy, natural nature of organic
products. No mention is made of higher rates of mycotoxins, of
E.coli and other food poisoning agents. Nor is mention
made of the fact that prophylactic veterinary medicines are not
permissible. Animals must become ill before treatment is allowed,
rather than preventing the illness or infestation in the first
19 June 2000