The European Council (EC) has agreed a new set of rules on organic food production as it aims to offer consumers the same quality ingredients across the continent.
Once adopted, the new rules will enter into force in January 2021 and will also apply to non-EU farmers who export their organic products to the EU market.
The council said that currently there is a situation where different standards may apply to producers within the same country when there is no equivalence arrangement with the EU just because certification bodies set their own standards.
Conformity to the EU single set of rules will replace the principle of equivalence. It is said to bring important improvements in relation to trade, the main one being that there will be now a level playing field between operators from the EU and from non-EU countries.
The scope of the rules has been extended to cover a range of new products such as salt, cork and essential oils. It will also be possible in the future to add new products to respond to the development of the sector and to consumers’ demands, providing additional opportunities for producers.
The EC said the regulation brings simplification for farmers. For example, small farmers will be able to choose group certification which will reduce their certification costs and make it easier for them to join the organic scheme.
New opportunities are also going to be created by the opening of a new market for organic seeds and other plant reproductive material with a high level of genetic biodiversity. It is hoped this will improve biodiversity, crop sustainability and will boost innovation.
European agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan
Welcoming the step towards the final adoption of the regulation, commissioner for agriculture Phil Hogan said: “Today’s decision of the council is another milestone for the organic sector, which ensures that this important and rapidly growing sector can continue to expand with clear rules and can be assured of being on an equal footing with producers from non-EU countries who export their organic produce into the EU.
“What everyone agreed on was that the current rules – which are 20 years old now – were not fit for purpose and were likely to hinder rather than help the development of this growing sector which is worth around €27 billion, and has grown by 125% over the last decade. We must support this growth by ensuring that the sector operates with appropriate legislation.
“This growth will be helped by smaller producers, who will now be allowed to join group certification schemes so as to benefit from lower certification costs. Moreover, organic farmers will now have access to a new market of organic seeds which will improve biodiversity, crop sustainability and will boost innovation.”
The European Commission will assess the situation within four years following the date of application of the new regulation. This will allow a comprehensive analysis of national rules and practices.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2018