Organic food: MEPs tighten EU rules to match consumer expectations
- Strict and risk-based checks throughout the supply chain
- New EU anti-contamination rules
- All imported food to comply with EU standards
New rules to ensure that only high-quality organic food is sold in the EU and to boost organic production were approved by the European Parliament on Thursday.
MEPs gave the go-ahead to the new EU law on organic production and labelling, as agreed by Parliament’s negotiators and EU ministers on 28 June 2017, by 466 votes in favour to 124 against, with 50 abstentions.
The main features include:
Ensure high quality of organic food
- Strict, risk-based checks will take place along the supply chain. Thanks to Parliament’s insistence, checks will be carried out on-site and for all operators, at least annually or once every two years if no fraud has been found in the last three years.
- Imports will have to comply with EU standards. Current “equivalence” rules, requiring non-EU countries to comply with similar but not identical standards, will be phased out within five years.
Boost EU organic food production
- Increasing supply of organic seeds and animals to meet the needs of organic farmers: derogations allowing the use of conventional seeds and animals in organic production should expire in 2035.
- Mixed farms, to encourage conversion: farms producing both conventional and organic food would be allowed, on condition that the two farming activities are clearly and effectively separated.
- Easier certification for small farmers: group certification would save small farmers time and money when turning organic.
Avoid contamination from chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilisers
- Precautionary measures: farmers and other operators in the food supply chain will be obliged to apply a set of new measures to avoid contamination; if a non-authorised pesticide or fertiliser is suspected to be present, the final product should not bear the organic label until further investigation; if contamination was deliberate or the operator failed to apply precautionary measures, the product will lose its organic status.
- Member states that currently apply thresholds for non-authorised substances in organic food, such as pesticides, could continue to do so, if they allow other EU countries’ organic foodstuffs complying with EU rules to access their markets.
Four years after entry into force of this regulation, the Commission would report back on how efficient the EU anti-contamination rules and national thresholds are and, if need be, come up with a draft law to harmonise them.
More detailed information about the new EU rules are available in the background note.
“Parliament’s vote will give more certainty and clarity to both EU farmers and consumers. The new EU law will improve quality of organic food in the EU but will also help to address the needs of a fast-growing organic market”, said rapporteur Martin Häusling (Greens/EFA, DE) and explained the new rules in detail in a press conference.
The agreed text still needs to be formally approved by the Council of EU ministers before it can enter into force. It shall apply from 1 January 2021.
Procedure: Ordinary legislative procedure (co-decision), 1st reading agreement
Type of document: Regulation