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 is being discussed in a co-decision process between the European Parliament and the Council. According to the initial proposal the new regulation would have been applied from 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 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 proposal 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 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 is now undergoing a co-decision process between the European Parliament and the Council.

Council: three Presidencies - Greece, Italy and Latvia - worked intensively to reach an agreed position on the initial Commission proposal. After 14 months an agreement was finally reached at the AGRI Council Ministers of 16 of June 2015.

The Council general approach is available on the Council website.

Parliament: the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development (COMAGRI) is responsible for the dossier, while the Committee for Environment, Public Health, Consumer Policy (COMENVI) gave an opinion. 
German Green MEP Martin Häusling was appointed as Rapporteur.

He presented his draft report in May 2015, proposing 353 amendments to the initial Commission proposal.

In May also COMENVI presented its opinion (158 amendments)

In June 2015, COMAGRI MEPs presented other 969 amendments.

Vote in COMAGRI took place on 13 October 2015. Adopted report is available here.

EU Parliamentary Research Service Briefing on the Organic Farming Legislation October 2015

Starting from November 2015, trilogue negotiations between the three institutions - Parliament, Council and Commission - were kicked off under the Luxembourg Presidency of the Council. The Dutch and Slovak Presidencies continued the discussions in 2016 and the Maltese Presidency took the baton in January 2017.

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