A new report from the Soil Association, ‘The Lazy Man of Europe’, asks the government to wake up to what Europe can teach the UK about backing organic food and farming.
UK organic bread and biscuit sales had dropped by almost 40% last April, according to the Soil Association, but they are now on the rise again,
The global production of organic food is set to grow substantially, it says, with the organic market frequently cited as one of the most significant growth markets in the food industry.
In Austria, Denmark, France, Germany and Switzerland, sales of organic food continued to grow in 2009, despite the recession. In the UK, although sales fell, they are now recovering.
The passive role of successive UK governments in supporting organic food and farming is one of the reasons given.
A statement from the Soil Association said: “We have found that most European countries have acted confidently to champion organic food and farming as a pioneering, sustainable and environmentally friendly way to produce food. In contrast, UK governments have been diffident, if not lazy, on the subject.
The new Coalition Government has taken some positive steps, such as cancelling the last Government’s publicly-funded, pro-GM propaganda consultation, to have been carried out by the Food Standards Agency. The new Agriculture Minister, Jim Paice, has said recently that organic principles lead the way on sustainable farming, and that organic farming should be fostered for this reason.
The report shows that other leading European governments are doing far more than the UK to advance organic food and farming. Most of these initiatives involve shifts in policies and priorities, not new funding.
It says that the UK Government should endorse the Food for Life Catering Mark, and ensure that public food procurement standards meet at least the Food for Life silver standard, which guarantees the use of seasonal, freshly prepared produce and some use of organic food.