Organic regulation review

On 24 March 2014, DG AGRI Commissioner Dacian Cioloş presented the Commission’s new European Organic Action Plan and new organic legislative proposal to the Council of the European Union. Whilst the EU Organic Action plan will be adopted by the European Commission, the legislative proposal for a new regulation must be decided in a co-decision process between the European Parliament and the Council. However, with parliamentary election in May 2014, the European Parliament will only deal with the issue by autumn 2014. According to the proposal the new regulation will enter into force in July 2017.

IFOAM EU has been involved since the process was launched by the Commission in 2012 and will continue to work hard to make sure the final results help the European organic sector develop – both in terms of quality and quantity.

With regard to the action plan, the Commission and Member States must fully support it financially as well as politically for it to become a success. Funding must be earmarked for organic research in the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, CAP and other policy tools.

With regard to the Commission’s proposal for a new regulation, IFOAM EU positions on the following were partly taken up:

- Environmental performance
- Group certification
- Origin labelling clarification
- Cutting Annex IX by half
- Seed
- Animals for breeding
- Young aquaculture stock

This marks significant achievements in IFOAM EU’s advocacy work both before the leak of a draft in January and after, as many improvements have been made to since the time of the leak.

But more improvements must be made. Unnecessary bureaucratic burden must not be created for farmers who want to become and stay organic, and real improvements must be made to the implementation of controls in Member States and regions – one of the most significant problems with the existing regulation. As well, organic is a process of production and must remain so – also in the eyes of the regulation.

Setting a separate threshold for organic products would turn the polluter pays principle upside down - when a neighbouring farmer uses pesticides, the organic farmer would have to pay! The only food supply chain in the EU that prohibits the use of pesticides would be made to pay for additional laboratory testing and the risk of being contaminated by conventional neighbours. The impact would be especially hard for small farmers to bear.

Additional concerns are linked to rules that would:

-Make producers in developing countries with completely different meteorological, environmental and structural conditions comply with the rules made for European conditions

-Force farmers who want to become organic to convert their entire holding at the same time

-Require organic farmers to provision themselves with more organic seed and feed in a time frame that is not realistic in all regions of Europe

Aiming to continue addressing consumer’s demands and to put high quality products on the market, IFOAM EU looks forward to working with the EU institutions to find the best regulatory framework for an efficient and realistic regulation for citizens, the farmers and all other operators in the organic food chain.

Useful documents

IFOAM EU Position on the Commission proposl for a new organic regulation: A Roadmap towards sustainable growth of the EU organic sector January 2015

IFOAM EU Position and Assessment on the new EU Organic Action Plan December 2014

IFOAM EU Press Release: Towards a new policy framework for organic farming – good aims but many open questions

IFOAM EU Media Briefing

IFOAM EU Position on Residue Threshold in Organic Products

IFOAM EU Position on the consultation document on the "European action plan on organic food and farming" November 2013

IFOAM EU’s policy option to improve the legislative and political organic framework from July 2013

IFOAM EU Dossier on the Review of the Legal and Political Framework for Organic Farming May 2013

The Commission's legislative proposal & the Annexes
The Commission’s proposed European Organic Action Plan

The Commission’s Q&A

Regarding the process

The European Commission's review of the existing organic regulation review consisted of three major official steps:

1. Report to the Council on the application of Council Regulation (EC) 834/2007
The Commission report to the Council was adopted in May 2012 and was presented at the June 2012 Council meeting under the Danish Presidency. Under the Irish Presidency, the Council presented its conclusions

2. Evaluation of the regulation
The European Commission subcontracted an external body to execute an official evaluation of the organic regulation. A consortium led by the German Thünen-Institut was commissioned in September 2012 to do the study, which aims to examine the relevance and effectiveness of Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 and its implementing rules with respect to achieving the objectives laid down in the legislation. The report was published in January 2014.

3. Impact assessment
At the same time the evaluation was being conducted, the European Commission  produced an impact assessment to evaluate the consequences of potential ways forward as conceived by the Commission. An inter-service group including multiple Directorates-General was established and gave input to the process. The Impact assessment included stakeholder consultations of different kinds including hearings with stakeholders and an online consultation opened to all European citizens and was closed on 10 April 2013 (Report on the public consultation).

An Impact Assessment Report with annexes (I and II) is available on the Commission website.

The Commission then published proposals for a new regulation and a new action plan.

The legislative proposal for a new regulation must be decided in a co-decision process between the European Parliament and the Council. However, with parliamentary election in May 2014, the European Parliament will only deal with the issue starting in autumn 2014. The running Greek EU Presidency has already started to schedule meetings with Member States to find their first position. According to the proposal the new regulation should enter into force in July 2017.

The EU Organic Action plan has been adopted by the European Commission and does not have the status of EU legislation. It is a strategy instrument and although Council and Parliament will most likely comment on it, it does not undergo co-decision. Therefore the Member States and European Parliament are not bound by it.

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