Campaigning Round Up
Garden Organic is represented on a number of important committees, groups and organisations in order to promote organic growing and campaign for a greater awareness of organic principles. In these Campaigning Round Ups, we report on our current progress. Sometimes the progress is slow, sometimes frustrating, but always we speak with clarity on behalf of our members. Here are some of the bodies where our voice is heard:
SUSTAIN is a campaigning organisation representing quality food and growing initiatives, and Garden Organic is a member. We have been involved in Sustain’s lobbying of Government, with a particular focus on the Agriculture Bill currently going through Parliament. Despite seemingly encouraging words from the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, around opportunities to create a quality food culture post-Brexit, the Agriculture Bill does not mention organic practice, nor indicate any support for a more sustainable food production framework. Garden Organic supports Sustain’s proposed amendments to the Bill at the committee stage, and we have also alerted members to write to their MPs to do the same.
The RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission is currently investigating the future of agriculture and horticulture post-Brexit, and has produced an Interim Report, downloadable from the internet. Garden Organic supported the establishment of the Commission, and has contributed to its deliberations. Garden Organic has found the interim report rather underwhelming, as it essentially merely sets out the current situation and a series of rather vague aspirations. We hope to persuade the Commission to adopt a more positive and realistic vision for a UK Food and Farming sector which embraces, celebrates and promotes the best of British, in the context of a sustainable, organic-friendly system.
DEFRA’s Organic Roundtable continues to meet as a representative group of organic organisations producing an organic plan. Garden Organic has a unique role here as the only non-commercial producer organisation, and we are being strongly encouraged to represent our members and supporters, and the opportunity to engage with the millions of UK Growers and gardeners, to see that organic practice can take a key place in the post-Brexit growing regulations.
In 1996 a Pesticides Forum was set up to create a UK National Action Plan for the sustainable use of plant protection products. Garden Organic is a member of one group within the Forum, The Amateur Liaison Group (ALG), which promotes messages on best practice for pesticide use by gardeners (as opposed to farmers). Issues such as labelling, sales, safe use, storage and disposal of pesticides are discussed and monitored by diverse stakeholders within the ALG, including the Horticultural Trade Association, the Crop Protection Assoc (representing pesticide manufacturers), the National Allotment Society, the RHS and Gardening Which. Garden Organic provides a valuable voice to consider alternative options before using a pesticide. At the autumn meeting, GO succeeded in changing consensus on the text of a point-of-sale leaflet which asked customers to 'Choose' the correct pesticide. At our suggestion, that particular section of the text was changed to include a preface saying 'Use garden pesticides as a last resort' and ... 'seek advice on non-chemical options from rhs.org.uk or gardenorganic.org.uk'. This leaflet will be printed and distributed to thousands of garden centres throughout the UK. Sometimes it is these small details that can make a huge difference.