Falling demand for organic products means that the government should pay less attention to lobby groups from the organic sector, claims the Crop Protection Association (CPA).
It believes organic campaigners have too much influence and are “anti-science”. But promoters of organic agriculture argue their influence is not disproportionate, and that underlying demand for organic products remains high.
CPA chief executive Dominic Dyer said: “As shoppers turn away from the organic brand and farmers stop converting their land for organic production, the organic sector should no longer have such a strong voice in the corridors of power.
“For too long the anti-science agenda of the organic movement has influenced the direction of agriculture and food production policy.”
Sales down 25%
The CPA claimed that sales of organic food in the UK have fallen for the third year in a row - a 25% drop since 2008. It also claimed that organic farmland conversion rates have plummeted by more than two-thirds over the same period.
"A decline in organic food sales should also lead to a decline in political influence,” Dyer said.
The Organic Food Federation, one of the certifying bodies for organic standards, rebuffed the CPA’s claims.
Technical manager John Weldon said: “Organics has always played a strong part in agriculture and farming. There has been a decline, that’s true, but we’re in a recession and the majority of organics are intended to be high-end foods.
“In agriculture there have been drops but there has been an increase in processing and importing.
“The main downturn has been in the poultry sector, not the crop sectors. Poultry, meat and egg sales are down but a lot of that was driven by supermarkets. When they heard the word ‘recession’ they panicked and cut their organic lines.
Waitrose released a report at the beginning of this year claiming that their organic sales remained up, mainly because it didn’t cut its organic lines while others did, he added.
“All of the organic sector is regulated by the EU. We just certify the EU regulations and the influence we have over that is very little. Any emphasis placed on organics by the government is not that great”, said Weldon.
The CPA maintains that scientific innovation holds the key to feeding a growing world population.
“Policy-makers in the UK and around the world need to face up to the fact that organic farming systems alone cannot feed the world,” said Dyer.
“Indeed the latest research indicates that any attempt to convert world agriculture to organic production would lead to lower crop yields, greater risk of crop loss and a rapid increase in world food prices, which would have a significant impact on the poorer nations of the world.”