EU proposes new organic farming rules

The European commission has drafted a proposal which aims to improve organic food production and the labelling of organic products. Gerald Callaghan reports

By Gerald Callaghan

26 Mar 2014

European agriculture commissioner Dacian Cioloș believes that current EU rules need to be scrapped and replaced, taking a new "risk-based approach".

The proposal includes an action plan which focuses on three priority domains: competitiveness for European organic producers, consolidation of consumer confidence in the European organic rules, and the reinforcement of the external dimension of EU organic production.

"The future of the organic sector in the EU depends on the quality and integrity of the products sold under the European organic logo", said the Romanian official.

According to the commission, across Europe in 2012, consumer spending on organic products amounted to €20bn.

"The future of the organic sector in the EU depends on the quality and integrity of the products sold under the European organic logo" - Dacian Cioloș

The organic sector in the EU has been developing rapidly and, according to Eurostat, the EU in 2011 had a total area of 9.6 million hectares cultivated as organic, an increase from 5.7 million in 2002.

The revised regulation would allow smaller farms to join EU organic farming by permitting them to sign up to a 'group certification system', in a bid to reduce 'red tape' on smaller businesses.

However, farmers and environmental campaigners expressed concern that the draft regulation might not go far enough.

Greens/EFA MEP Martin Häusling believes that the integrity of organic labelling needs better protection than that outlined in the proposal.

"Organic agriculture is and should continue to be the flagship of best practice in farming," he said.

"To guarantee this, consumers need to be confident that, when they buy an EU organic-labelled product, farmers have not used damaging pesticides and that the product is free from contamination. EU rules need to guarantee this, while not suffocating smaller, local producers who are the essence of the organic system", added the German deputy.

"The new rules must let production continue to develop, while supporting the growth of the organic market, using the right tools," said Pekka Pesonen, secretary general of Copa-Cogeca - a European association of farmers and agri cooperatives.

"In particular, the rules must not discourage new farmers from converting into organic farming nor existing organic farmers to continue production", he added.

The draft regulation is now set to be scrutinised by the council and parliament.

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