Organic food: green light for fresh EU rules
- Stricter checks in the supply chain
- New EU anti-contamination rules
- Imported food to comply with EU standards
New rules to increase consumer trust in organic foodstuffs and unleash the sector′s potential for growth were approved by the Agriculture Committee on Wednesday.
MEPs gave the go-ahead to the new EU law on organic production and labelling, as agreed by Parliament’s negotiators and EU governments on 28 June and endorsed on Monday by the Council’s Special Committee on Agriculture, by 29 votes to 11, with four abstentions.
To increase consumers’ trust:
- Strict, risk-based checks along the supply chain that, on Parliament’s insistence, will be on-site and for all operators, at least annually or one every two years if no fraud is found in the last three years.
- Imports to comply with EU standards: current “equivalence” rules, requiring non-EU countries to comply with similar but not the same standards, will be phased out within five years; to avoid supply being suddenly disrupted, the Commission could, for a renewable period of two years, allow imports of specific products, even if not fully compliant with EU standards (e.g. due to specific climate conditions).
- Contamination with pesticides: farmers will be obliged to apply precautionary 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 farmer failed to apply newly introduced precautionary measures, the product will lose its organic status.
- Member states currently applying 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.
To boost EU organic food production:
- Increasing supply of organic seeds and animals: better data gathering on the availability of organic seeds and animals should increase their supply to meet the needs of organic farmers. Derogations allowing the use of conventional seeds and animals in organic production would expire in 2035, but the end-date could be pushed back or forward, depending on increased availability of organic seeds and animals.
- Mixed farms: 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 for small farmers would make their life easier and attract more of them into the organic farming business.
More detailed information about the new EU rules are available in the background note.
“Today’s positive vote is very good news for both EU consumers and farmers. Thanks to the Parliament’s pressure, new rules will make seeds and plant reproductive material adapted to the organic farming needs more accessible. By default, organic production will have to be soil-based. Imports to the EU will have to comply with our strict standards and will be easier to check. Finally, the new law will help to address the needs of a rapidly growing organic market”, said rapporteur and chief EP negotiator Martin Häusling (Greens/EFA, DE).
The agreed text still needs to be approved by the Parliament as a whole and the Council before it can enter into force. It shall apply from 1 January 2021.
Procedure: Ordinary legislative procedure (co-decision), 1st reading agreement
Type of the document: Regulation