Organic Order Threatened

10 Oct 2006

Organic food watchdogs in the UK claim to be experiencing pressure from supermarkets to lower their certification standards. Organic foods in the UK represent a billion-pound industry with 30% annual growth, but suppliers are struggling to meet demand, and no one agrees on the extent to which farmers are abandoning key principles in the face of this commercial pressure.

Soil Association Director Patrick Holden confirmed that supermarkets have been lobbying intensely for lower standards but noted that the organic food industry, rather than folding under the pressure, was in fact employing more rigorous standards than ever.

Yet this issue has introduced disagreement into the association. Particularly at issue is whether salmon farming should be certified as organic. The Soil Association argues that it should, given the certification process’s potential to improve an industry that supplies half of all the fish consumed in the world.

Lawrence Woodward, chief executive of a foundation that researches organic food, stated that “there are lots of loopholes in the regulations and in practice these are being heavily exploited. Organics is increasingly becoming industrialized and the consumer will one day wake up and see this stuff is not what they think it is.”

Sir Terry Leahy, chief executive of Tesco supermarkets, continues to lobby for the for the British organic movement to become more “professional”, claiming that the UK approach to organics restricts production. He stated that British producers’ inability to meet demand for organic food meant that he had to find 70% of his organic fare abroad.

Source: The Guardian

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