Letter: Going organic

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The Independent is to be congratulated on its excellent supplement on organic farming ("Foods for thought", 21 September). Unfortunately, it underplays the extent of government support over the last two years.

Over the last six months, the Government has allocated more than pounds 15m to 700 or so farmers. This will help tide them over the period - normally two years - between them stopping applying pesticides and fertilisers and attaining organic status. This money will help to convert more than 50,000 hectares of agricultural land and contributes to the fivefold increase in organic land over the last year. A further pounds 9m of future expenditure has already been earmarked for this purpose.

The research budget has been doubled to pounds 2.1m a year specifically for organic farming. But the sector also benefits from much of the other research the Ministry undertakes, for example its planned spend of more than pounds 7m on animal welfare, nitrate pollution and plant health this year.

It is also untrue to state that the Ministry spends pounds 52m a year on genetic research. The actual figure is just under pounds 3m.


Minister for Fisheries & the Countryside

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

London SW1