DEFRA to review organic standards committee
announced a review of its Advisory Committee on Organic Standards
(ACOS), which is expected to pave the way towards future
development and governance.
The ACOS was created in 2003 to advise the government on the development and implementation of organic standards, approval of certifying bodies, and R&D. The review, which will involve feedback from stakeholders, will be the first in its history. The impending review was heralded last week by Jeff Rooker, Minister for Sustainable Farming, Food and Animal Welfare. But it does not necessarily indicate dissatisfaction with organic standards in the UK, since the government recommends that all such public bodies are reviewed from time to time to ensure they are delivering top-notch services. However if any changes are needed, these would be implemented in early 2008 - as soon as possible after the review's completion at the end of this year. It is planned that the review will take a look at the committee's future development and governance, as well as the quality and impact of the advice it delivers, management of resources and working methods. Rooker said: "In carrying out the study, the review will consider a variety of evidence on the performance of ACOS and will consult with relevant organisations and stakeholders who have experience of the Committee's work." The review will be carried out by Drew Associates, a consultancy that is independent of ACOS and Defra. The consultants will work closely with stakeholders who have been involved in the work of the Committee. Organic Monitor, a consultancy, estimates that the UK organic food & drink market grew by an impressive 25 per cent last year to £1.97bn (c€2.9bn). However both Organic Monitor and the Soil Association have expressed concern over organic supply, with fears that a shortage of organic produce to meet demand could curb development of the market in general. In March this year the Soil Association criticised the government's decision to end funding for organic vegetable and potato trial, calling the decision a potential threat to the sector.