The Organic Targets Bill aims to have a strategy in place to ensure 30% of land is in organic production and 20% of the food we eat is organic by 2010.
Demand for organic food is growing at 40% each year, but around 70% of organic food is imported. So UK farmers are losing out on a great opportunity to grow and sell organic food. Targets will spur Government action to encourage the increased organic production needed to reduce imports.
The targets were calculated by looking at the current growth in demand for organic food, and by studying the progress of other European countries such as Sweden and Denmark, which set organic targets during the 1990s. They are realistic and achievable targets for the Government to work towards.
To achieve the targets, the Government would need to develop a strategy to help farmers, processors, distributors and retailers work towards increasing organic production and consumption. The Bill does not limit the policy changes to be used, and there are many useful pieces of research to help government develop its strategy. In developing a strategy, the government would have its attention focused on practical measures to put organic farming centre-stage.
Research shows that many farmers would consider converting to organic methods, but there are currently barriers to this. Organisations such as the Soil Association and Elm Farm Research Centre recommend some practical measures to encourage more organic farming, for instance:
- Regional organic centres to give information and training to farmers about suitable crops, methods of pest control, and how to market organic foods
- Regional organic processing centres, where segregation of organic and non-organic (including GM) produce can be guaranteed
- Targeting research funding on finding plant varieties best suited to organic production, and on techniques to enhance production without artificial fertilisers and pesticides
- Supporting the availability of organic seed & animal feed.