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EU review of Organic Regulation: Straight bananas, euro-sausages and now... dilute organics?

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Peter Melchett (picture/Soil Association), Soil Association policy director, responds to the proposed revision of the EU Council regulation.

 

A proposed revision of the EU Council regulation governing organic food and farming threatens:

– To ride rough-shod over regional and local distinctiveness;

– Would allow GM contamination that would risk nearly one in a hundred mouthfuls of organic food being GM;

– And would obscure the local origins of organic food by imposing an EU organic logo or generic ‘EU-Organic’ label on all organic food.

 

It would also concentrate power in the hands of the EU Commission.

 

Peter Melchett, policy director said: "This draft revision runs completely counter to the spirit of the pioneers of the organic movement, which grew from the grassroots, prioritising local distinctiveness, care for the environment and animal welfare. In contrast, the Commission’s draft organic regulation mimics the agribusiness model of globally competitive, freely traded commodity production Proposing that organic food standards should allow routine contamination with GM might please Monsanto, but flies in the face of the widespread public opposition across all EU Member States to this controversial and risky technology. There’s no doubt that the regulation needed bringing up to date, given the huge surge in public support and market growth since the original was drafted in 1991. But imposing a meaningless, generic ‘EU-Organic’ label will put the Commission into conflict with those who could be its strongest supporters. The draft proposes the use of the EU organic logo or the label 'EU Organic'. The Soil Association has developed its standards over forty years building strong public trust and awareness; the use of 'EU' on locally produced and imported foods will simply confuse consumers while adding no useful information. Consumers want to buy locally sourced organic sausages supporting Norfolk, Cumberland, or Schleswig-Holstein producers not some anonymous ‘Euro-organic sausage'. Taken as a whole, these draft proposals risk a corporate take-over of the organic sector, with all the dire consequences that we have already seen in the USA . In the US the powerful corporate food industry lobby has been pushing to dilute organic standards, for example by allowing hitherto banned artificial and industrial chemical ingredients. This would make entering the lucrative organic market easier for the major food processors. Unless the Commission takes notice of the concerns of the Soil Association and other European and international organic bodies, this draft regulation threatens to provoke opposition and disbelief comparable only to the infamous spoof headlines about, ‘EU demands straight bananas’."

 

Soil Association’s key concerns on the draft revised Regulation:


• Article 3 suggests economic viability of a production system rather than the interests of human health or environmental sustainability as the criteria for judging its acceptability.
It also sets the weak goal for organic production of only minimising negative effects on the environment rather than delivering positive environmental outcomes.

• Article 4 omits any reference to local supply and distribution.

• Article 7 would allow routine GM contamination of organic products up to 0.9%, in line with the desire of the US Government and GM companies to see all our food contaminated with GM.

• Article 18 forces every organic product to carry an EU logo or to say it is 'EU-organic', obscuring local origin and undermining consumers' ability to choose local food.

• Articles 20 and 24 appear to be aimed at restricting what organic farmers and suppliers can tell consumers, especially if their standards are higher than the EU minimum.

• Article 31 gives the Commission increased powers similar to those it exercises with the disastrous GM legislation, where it can override the majority opinion of the member states.


 


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