European Commission proposes stricter laws for organic foods
The European Commission (EC) has proposed a new Regulation or organic products and labelling of organic products, saying that consumer and producer concerns are at the heart of the new proposal, which seeks to address shortcomings of the current EU system.
The EC said the European Union’s (EU) organic market had quadrupled in size over the last 10 years and rules needed to be updated and adjusted so that the sector could further develop and respond to future challenges.
“The future of the organic sector in the EU depends on quality and integrity of the products sold under the European organic logo,” said Dacian Ciolos, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development. “The Commission is looking for more and better organic farming in the EU by consolidating consumer confidence in organic products and removing obstacles to the development of organic agriculture,” he said.
“This package is good for consumers and good for farmers,” Mr Ciolos said. “Consumers will have been guarantees on organic food made and sold in the EU and farmers, producers and retailers will have access to a larger market, both within and outside the EU,” he said.
Three main objectives
The proposal focuses on three main objectives: maintaining consumer confidence, maintaining producer confidence, and making it easier for farmers to switch to organics. The EC said the aim is that organic farming remains close to its principles and objectives, so that public demands in terms of environment and quality are met.
The EC proposes in particular:
To strengthen and harmonise rules, both in the EU and for imported products, by removing many of the current exception in terms of production and controls
To reinforce controls by making them risk-based
To make it easier for small farmers to join organic farming by introducing the possibility to sign up to a group certification system
To better address the international dimension of trade in organic products with the addition of new provisions on exports
To simplify the legislation to reduce administrative costs for farmers and improve transparency.
Action Plan to help farmers, producers and retailers adjust
To help organic farmers, producers and retailers adjust to the proposed policy changes and meet future challenges, the EC said it has also approved an Action Plan on the future of Organic Production in Europe.
The EC said the Action Plan foresees to “better inform farmers on rural development and EU farm policy initiatives encouraging organic farming, to strengthen links between EU research and innovation projects and organic production, and to encourage the use of organic food, for example in schools.
The proposal, which will now be submitted to the European Parliament and to the Council, builds on the findings of a broad consultation process that started in 2012 and which included a series of hearings with EU and international experts on organic production.
A public consultation carried out in 2013 met a strong interest from the public, with 45,000 replies, mostly from consumers rather than producers. The EC said this consultation highlighted the public’s concerns with environmental and quality issues and showed a “clear demand for strengthened and more uniform organic rules throughout the EU”.