A robust defence was mounted this week by Northern Foods non-executive chairman, Lord Haskins, in the face of press criticism after his appointment as Rural Recovery Co-ordinator. Speaking to The Grocer from his French holiday villa, Haskins said his views had been totally misrepresented. "I am not anti-organic." he protested. "In fact I am a good friend of [Soil Association director] Patrick Holden, and I think he has done a very good job. "What I have said is that if a law was passed that all food had to be organic, the world would starve." On GM foods he said: "I am in favour of work on technology and R&D with GM, but I accept there are environmental issues. "But there is no risk from eating GM food, just as there is no risk from eating vaccinated meat." Asked whether he had said that farmers were "mollycoddled", he replied: "I have no recollection of saying that. My point was that large farmers get a disproportionate amount of the money." Haskins said that he had discussed his new role with the prime minister, but because he was on holiday he had not seen the statement announcing his appointment. He was not aware he would be reporting to rural affairs minister Alun Michael until The Grocer told him. Haskins said that in his new role he would be concerned primarily with the areas most directly affected by FMD ­ Cumbria, Devon and North Yorkshire. He added there was a limited amount government could do to help rural shops and post offices. "It is up to people in rural areas to use their local shops and services. If they choose to go 20 miles to the nearest superstore to do all their shopping there is not much the government can do," he said. - See Opinion, page 14. {{NEWS }}