UK's Government is 'Lazy' About Promoting Organic Food

The newest report shows that the UK government is not doing enough to promote organic food. The Soil Association said sales continued to grow in other European nations during the recession, while UK sales fell by 13.6% in 2009. The Soil Association operates the UK's largest organic accreditation scheme.  The report also said that the government is not doing enough to promote alternative food and healthy lifestyles and this is blamed in part to the decline in organic sales.

Report Recommendations:

The report recommended a number of actions for the government to take, including

  • welcoming the organic market as an important growth area for the nation's economy,
  • introduction of a cross-departmental food strategy that recognises the role of organic farming,
  • re-establishment of a dedicated research budget to address problems faced by the organic sector, and
  • matching industry funding to promote organic food and farming

The Soil Associations Policy Director, Peter Melchett commented that the UK government is "ideologically opposed" to nature-based farming techniques. UK's Environment Secretary said that sustainable food production is going to be one of the biggest concerns in the coming years. She acknowledged that although it is not a cure-all, it is a big part of the solution.

No Fixed Targets...

In Austria, 20% of the land is under organic farming. Switzerland has 11% under organic and is pushing for 20%. However National Farmers' Union president Peter Kendall opined that although he looked forward to organic and conventional farmers working more closely together, he think it would be "dangerous" for the government to set fixed targets.

He says the goal should be to get customers to want to buy organic food.  A Defra spokeswoman has said that, "Organic food commands a premium price, but it represents less than 2% of the market. The opportunity is there for organic suppliers to build their market share by being competitive and customer-focused."

Government or Markets?

Promoting organic food is a double-edged conundrum. Targeting consumers alone without government support will not increase the consumption and thereby production of organic. The government will not take the necessary action without consumer demand.

Boosting consumer demand needs to comes from grass-root education initiatives and an increase in information available. The UK drastically needs a food revolution, perhaps even more so than the US. Increasingly levels of obesity and related illnesses due to increase in level of junk food intake is taking a toll on the national health budget. Although emissions in the UK dropped due to the recession, this is a temporary trend. Farming is still one of the biggest industries in the country and methods to reduce carbon impact of it is needed.

Making organic food more accessible and mainstream will alleviate some of these problems. However, it still remains how it will be done without adequate government support.