After three years of negotiations, the European Union is nearing the end of a long process to simplify and harmonise the rules for organic food production and the labelling of organic products.
Council Regulation (EC) 834/3007 currently defines the minimum standards for organic products that are produced, manufactured, imported into, sold or traded within the EU, as well as the national inspection and certification systems that ensure that these requirements are met.
However, the past decade has seen a 125% growth in the value of the organic food market, with the amount of land used for organic farming growing at around 400,000 hectares per year. The European Commission has now recognised that the current rules need to be updated to support the long term development of organic production in the EU.
One of the key aims of the new regulations will be to ensure that the EU organic logo offers consumers the same guarantee of quality across Europe, including in respect of products imported from outside the EU.
The new rules will:
- Create an EU-wide set of rules for all organic producers and products. Any necessary exceptions will be limited in time, regularly assessed and applied to all producers to ensure fair treatment.
- Apply equally to non-EU farmers who export their goods to the EU, phasing out the 60+ different “equivalence” standards currently applying to imported organic foods and levelling the playing field between EU and non-EU producers.
- Enable farmers to apply for group certification for their products, thereby reducing costs and making it easier to join the organic scheme.
- Apply to new products like salt, cork and essential oils and enable further products to be added in response to consumer demand.
- Allow national authorities the discretion to reduce controls and inspections on farms from every year to every two years for producers with no record of non-compliance after three consecutive controls.
- Reinforce the rules on precautionary measures to avoid accidental contamination by pesticides, giving consumers confidence that no pesticides have been used in the production of organic foods.
Following the European Parliament’s first reading, the proposed regulations will come into force on 1 January 2021, repealing Council Regulation (EC) 834/3007.
Please see here for more information on the new proposals.