Defra's Action Plan to Develop Organic Food and Farming recognised the significant benefits of organic farming for the environment, society, and the economy. The action plan, published by Defra, stated that, after comparing average conventional and organic farms, organic farming is generally accepted to produce the following environmental benefits. Defra's action plan confirmed that organic farming results in:
- Higher levels of biodiversity.
- Lower environmental pollution from pesticides.
- Reduced carbon dioxide emissions through lower use of energy inputs.
- Less waste, because of reduced reliance on external materials.
The action plan also recognised that organic farming also produces social and economic benefits:
- Organic food is produced to legally enforceable standards and is subject to tight controls on inputs and an official inspection and accreditation system; it therefore meets demands from an increasing number of consumers for high standards of assurance about production methods.
- It can encourage consumers to take a closer interest in how land is farmed and, in the context of its particular contribution to local food marketing, can help to develop a sense of community between buyer and seller, town and country.
- Organic food benefits people, through employment on and off farm; and animals, through high welfare standards.
The most significant recommendations of Defra's organic action plan were:
- A target of 70% of the market for indigenous organic products to be from UK producers by 2010.
- Supermarkets to agree to increase the proportion of organic food from the UK.
- Continuing support payments for organic farmers – up until this point, once organic farmers had converted their farms, they did not receive any more financial help.
- Top fruit growers (e.g. apples and pears) to receive higher payments to encourage more fruit farmers to meet the growing demand for organic fruit.
- Public procurement, for example in schools and hospitals, of organic food to be encouraged.
- The Advisory Committee on Organic Standards (ACOS) was also established. Catherine Fookes, who ran the Organic Targets Bill campaign for Sustain, continues to sit on this committee as a consumer representative.
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