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Organic Food

Volume 406: debated on Tuesday 10 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions she has had in 2003 with the chairman of the Food Standards Agency on the promotion of organic food; and if she will make a statement on the implementation of the organic action plan. [116797]

Copies of correspondence so far between myself and the Chairman of the Food Standards Agency on organic issues have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.As chairman of the stakeholder group taking forward the "Action plan to develop organic food and farming in England" I attach great importance to progressing the commitments made in the plan. In respect of these commitments:

I am in discussion with Chief Executives of the main multiples on the commitment to increase the proportion of organic food they source from within the UK;
We are taking forward the commitment to encourage the purchase of sustainable and local food, including organic food, in public procurement;
We have put in place a revised Organic Farming Scheme for England including on-going aid for organic farmers and higher rates of conversion aid for top fruit orchards;
We are providing an additional £5 million over the next five years to support organic R&D under the LINK programme;
The first organic statistical information notice for England was published on 19 May.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs whether her Department uses bodies other than the United Kingdom Accreditation Service for the accreditation of certification bodies operating in the organic food sector. [116756]

Currently the approval of organic certification bodies for the purposes of Council Regulation (EEC) 2092/91 is carried out by the United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards (UKROFS) in liaison with the Department. Consequent on the abolition of UKROFS in July 2003 new arrangements for approving the organic certification bodies are being put in place. These arrangements will involve UKAS, as the UK's official provider of accreditation services, in assessing the bodies and advising Government on their compliance with requirements in the Council Regulation. UKAS is considering the scope for collaboration with other bodies who are involved in assessments against organic standards.