The boom in demand for organic food is leading to a loss of control by the industry over its traditional values, MPs warned Wednesday.

The U.K. parliament’s cross-party agriculture select committee believes the threat is coming from commercially orientated farmers and the supermarkets, which are becoming more dominant in the market compared to producer-controlled cooperatives. MPs acknowledged that there were “huge opportunities” and a growing demand for organics but the industry needs to get a grip on working towards better supplier relationships and stronger producer-controlled co-operatives.

The committee says the organic industry must develop its ability to market products effectively so that they appeal not because of sentiment, but because of proven benefits. A “common perception” is that organic means pesticide- and chemical-free, but in fact it simply means farming without artificial pesticides; in other words those produced from natural chemicals may be used. MPs suggested that there is a significant list of non-organic processing aids which may be used in manufacturing organic products and a tolerance level of 5% non-organic ingredients in processed products labelled as organic.

“This is not to accuse the organic movement of misleading the public, but it is perhaps true that the public has a perception of organic farming that is, at least partly, mythical,” the committee report says. “We believe it is important that the claims can be tested and verified in order that consumers know what they are really buying.”

The report falls short of recommending targets for organic farming. A 30% target is a figure that has been mentioned in a private members bill, the organic targets bill, which goes before parliament on February 9th.

Friends of the Earth food campaigner Sandra Bell said: “We are disappointed that the committee’s report falls short of recommending targets for organic farming.

“However, it contains some sound advice, not least that a more strategic approach is needed to develop the organic sector and more resources should be put into training and research to maximise the considerable benefits of organic farming.”

To read the report, click here: