Organic Articles: Your Government Needs You !

The Organic Consultancy

Your Government Needs You !

Simon Wright
The Organic Consultancy

This article originally appeared in the June 2003 edition of Organic Business.

Last July’s Organic Action Plan contained a commitment to produce a new UK Compendium of organic regulations. The first draft of the Compendium is now ready. It has been developed from the long-established UKROFS standards but there are some important differences. The Compendium is divided into Part One (Compulsory) and Part Two (Advisory). Part One is based on the UKROFS standards with some minor modifications, whilst Part Two now contains advice on a variety of areas including Watercress, Aquaculture, Long Season Protected Cropping and Pest Control. The Organic Action Plan group has successfully fought to retain the UKROFS Environmental standards, although legal reasons have necessitated moving them to Part Two of the Compendium.

The Compendium is based on EU regulation 2092/91, as were the UKROFS standards. As a result there are relatively few areas where UK legislation is permitted to depart from EU legislation. The main example is livestock standards. Here the UKROFS standards have in the past been subjected to strong lobbying, particularly from representatives of the UK poultry industry who felt that UK standards were gold-plated relative to organic standards elsewhere in the EU. You can judge the degree of “gold-plating” in the Compendium for yourself as those passages which differ from 2092/91 are italicised and there is an accompanying consultation letter which lists the differences.

UKROFS standards have formed the baseline standards for UK organic production since their publication in1989. Different certifying bodies have chosen to operate to a higher level than the UKROFS standards but no-one can operate below them. So the UKROFS standards have formed the floor below which UK organic production could go. The Compendium represents a new floor but is it set at the right level ? Are the new standards too strict or too lenient ? Are they robust enough to protect UK organic consumers or do they go too far and disadvantage UK producers ? Defra needs your answers to these questions during the three month public consultation period currently underway. This is how you can take part:

  • Download the Compendium from www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/consult/organic-compend
  • Think about how the Compendium could be improved
  • Email your views to compendium@defra.gsi.gov.uk

Miss this chance to shape organic legislation and you forfeit your right to moan about UK organic standards in the future. The UK’s organic standards are in your hands !