Shadow Defra minister signals wider role for organic under Labour 

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The shadow Defra minister, Daniel Zeichner, has signalled that organic and agroecological approaches more widely would play a bigger role under a Labour government in the UK’s transition towards sustainable food and farming.  

Speaking at last week’s Soil Association Certification Trade Conference, Zeichner said that Labour had “consistently made the case for an agroecolgical approach” while the current government has been developing and implementing its Agriculture and Environment Acts. And he described the absence of an organic standard as “a major disappointment”. 

The Labour shadow minister said he shared many of the organic sector’s frustrations with the current lack of ambition and clarity around the ELMS scheme. He quoted extensively from a Soil Association press release from earlier this year calling for radical changes to support a resilient and sustainable agroecological farming sector, noting that “I couldn’t have put it better myself”. 

Zeichner said the “failure to take a whole farm approach, which you and others have been advocating, means that some farmers are taking money for environmental improvements while intensifying elsewhere”. And he noted that UK “agricultural emissions are going up, not down”. 

Alluding to the Government’s early enthusiasm for a “the progressive prize of a Green Brexit” (Michael Gove), Zeichner commented: “Isn’t it ironic that while (organic) conversion rates have stayed pretty static here there is just so much more ambition across the channel. I know there has been some backsliding there, but the scale of the ambition set out by the EU on organics and on pesticides is in such marked contrast to what is going on here – so we really need to be more ambitious.”

Zeichner said that he was determined that if a Labour government was elected that the country would make “the big transition” to sustainable food and farming and that he looked forward to “working with organic colleagues”. 

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