Select Committee on Agriculture Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by St Nicholas Court Farms (F42)

  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 place.

19 June 2000

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