The Organic Voice - update

Garden Organic regularly attends policy and campaigning meetings.  Below is a monthly update on subjects under discussion. 
March 2019
Garden Organic, through the English Organic Forum, have been in comprehensive discussions with DEFRA regarding the situation of organic frameworks, regulation and definition post-Brexit, principally overseen by Minister of State, George Eustice.  It was particularly disappointing therefore that Minister Eustice resigned from the Government at this critical time, leaving the organic sector with difficult and crucial decisions to be determined by his untested successor, Robert Goodwill MP.

It would appear that the National Farmers' Union has decided not to apply for a temporary lifting of the Government’s ban on Neonicotinoids to enable farmers to use these over the summer months.  This, if correct, will be good news for our environment, as increasing evidence points to a significant pollinator decline where Neonicotinoids are used.

A number of media outlets have reported on tensions within Government over demands from potential bilateral trade partners (for example the USA), that the UK should ‘adjust’ our definition of organic standards to align with our potential future trading partners.  Whilst the Secretary of State at DEFRA, Michael Gove, has given a commitment to maintain if not enhance UK food standards, it appears that considerable pressure is being brought to bear to allow ‘flexibility’ to enhance prospects for bilateral trade deals.  Garden Organic and the English Organic Forum strongly oppose any reduction in standards.

April 2019
Brexit – the focus on planning for ‘No Deal’ within DEFRA,  coupled with the departure of both the Permanent Secretary and the Agriculture Minister almost simultaneously, has created a virtual  paralysis within government departments.  This has halted the impetus on our work contributing to ensure that organic standards and frameworks are maintained, if not enhanced, after Brexit.

English Organic Action Plan – the process to produce a rolling Action Plan for the organic movement in England proceeds, with the ambition to be ready as soon as Government is in a position to re-engage.  The plan has a vision for the organic sector, aiming to move towards equivalent positions in many comparative European countries, and to make organic produce more accessible and cost-neutral.

Glyphosate – our lobbying work has received a confirmatory boost with the outcome of court cases in California where a link between glyphosate and non-Hodgkins Lymphoma has been established.  The manufacturer Monsanto (now part of Bayer Group) is responsible for significant financial compensation to the unfortunate appellants.  It appears the manufacturers were well aware of  issues with the herbicide for many years.

Wales Real Farming Conference – the great success of the annual Oxford Real Farming Conference (a gathering of organic and agroecological growers and supporters) has encouraged the sustainable food, farming and growing community in Wales to establish a Welsh version.  The first Conference will be held in Aberystwyth on 11/12 November, and preparatory work is now in hand.  Garden Organic has been at the forefront of this initiative, and we will continue to report to members on this exciting new event.