Tesco criticised by pro-organic group

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A Pro-Organic farming group has criticised Tesco for failing to back its campaign to drive a massive increase in organic methods of food production.

The Organic Targets campaign is calling for 30 per cent of UK agricultural land to be organic by 2010. It claims seven of the country's top supermarket groups have backed the campaign. But Tesco and Safeway have failed to do so.

Currently only 3 per cent of UK agricultural land is under organic production. And the Organic Targets Campaign says that despite a boom in organic sales in this country, about 70 per cent of organic food is imported from abroad.

The campaigners plan to stage a rally to Westminster on Wednesday to lobby MPs. The group says its campaign is already supported by 144 MEPs.

Tesco has been supportive of organic production. It recently committed itself to achieving £1bn worth of organic sales by 2005.

Catherine Fookes, the campaign's co-ordinator, said: "We are delighted that so many supermarkets are backing the call for a massive increase in Britain's organic farming. But we are extremely disappointed that Tesco, the UK's biggest food retailer, has so far failed to give its support."

Tesco has already been involved in a spat this year with the Militant Farmers for Action group over its pricing structure. The group had threatened to blockade Tesco's main distribution centres if it failed to agree to a meeting. Tesco has now agreed to a meeting later this month.

Among the organisations backing the campaign are Friends of the Earth, the Soil Association, the Transport and General Workers Union, UNISON, and Sustain.

A spokesman for Tesco said: "We are cautious about signing up to the campaign because we believe production should be market led."