Statement on news stories about organic standards

Date Published: 22/12/2008

Following reports in today’s Times and Telegraph newspapers, Organic Farmers & Growers would like to clarify claims that it has asked for organic standards to be “relaxed” or to “bend the rules”.

Most importantly, despite the reports, no approach has yet been made to Defra by representatives of the organic sector.

However, the certifying bodies and other key stakeholders have been in discussion among themselves regarding what measures might be possible and appropriate, given the financial difficulties facing the sector in the current severe economic downturn.

We would stress that key to any discussions will be the need to maintain the integrity of the organic standards and the trust of the consumer.

Once agreed on possible ways forward, it is likely that the industry will approach Defra to begin dialogue on what steps are possible and acceptable, while ensuring that when shoppers buy products with the word organic on the label they can continue to trust that information.

As no proposals have yet been put forward, any discussion of specific measures would be extremely premature.

It is, however, fair to say that the broad aims would be to allow farmland to remain organic, even if the animals on it were to be fed on non-organic rations for a limited time, thereby enforcing the removal of the animals from the organic system.

It should be noted that the stringent requirements of organic conversion mean that if farmers are forced to leave the system, they cannot quickly re-enter and would need to go once again through lengthy conversion of their land. The industry’s aim is to protect the organic system for the welfare and environmental benefits it brings and ensure that progress made in expanding this sustainable method of farming is not lost.