Clive Beddall & Anne Bruce The Grocer understands that food chain leaders are staging detailed behind-the-scenes talks to prepare a "viable strategic approach" when the government unveils an independent commission into food and farming. The aim, according to one participant, is to learn from the experiences of the foot and mouth crisis and "seize the current climate as a window of opportunity to challenge existing practices and move forward". Although the new Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs is preparing what secretary of state Margaret Beckett describes as a "sustainable development strategy" for the agricultural sector, industry leaders stress that the whole food chain would be affected and therefore it is vital all its partners are involved in "the entire procedure". Talks have been taking place for several weeks and details are likely to emerge once the terms of reference for the new Commission have been unveiled. However, on Tuesday, Sainsbury chief executive Sir Peter Davis told a gathering of MPs, analysts and media in London: "I believe there is insufficient understanding of the processes and cost structure of the supply chain by many of its participants. It is essential that this is reviewed in order to reach the best outcome for all participants our customers, our suppliers and our UK farmers." Beckett, meanwhile, unveiling a strong case for urgent reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, said this week that organic food would play a key role in the new unified approach. However, speaking at a conference on the future of European agriculture, Beckett added: "The organic sector is already responding fast in response to consumer demand for high quality branded food. It cannot satisfy our needs in isolation, but it can contribute perhaps significantly to achieving sustainability and it is a sector I would be happy to see develop further." But Beckett warned against over-production of organic food. She said: "What we wouldn't want to do is create organic produce that has to be dumped." The UK wants to encourage farmers to diversify away from intensive food production and into land management, she said, adding: "We are committed to facilitating the development of competitive and diverse farming and food industries, and doing so within the context of sustainable rural development." - See Opinion, page 18. {{NEWS }}