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Regulating European organic production: Commission’s draft is unacceptable
by Redaktion (comments: 0)
On January 23rd and 24th 2006, the Agriculture Ministers of the 25 member states reached a decision on the Commission’s new draft for regulation of organic production by the community [COM (2005) 671]. In a letter to Dominique Bussereau, the French organic agriculture organisation FNAB asks for this draft to be rejected, as it contravenes the fundamental principles of organic agriculture (including those described in the preamble of the Commission’s own draft). "This draft runs counter to the guidelines Europe has chosen in the last 15 years for organic agriculture," FNAB says. The Commission would like to abrogate a scheme of regulation that both clearly defines organic agriculture and aspires to develop it on a Europe-wide basis. The Commission would like to replace it with a new regulatory regime whose blatant aim is to facilitate only the trade in organic products to the detriment of the overall coherence of the method of production. FNAB’s board of directors considers that the following points have to be modified before beginning any constructive work on the document as a whole: “negative” flexibility, the decision-making process and the timeframe.
"Negative" flexibility would not only prohibit member states from doing better than the community rules but would also permit them, within the poorly defined conditions and limits, to do less. Since the basic text lacks precision and has omissions, it is incapable of implementation. We are not prepared to deceive the consumer by proposing a single label for products produced according to widely differing regulations and devoid of transparency. What credibility can there be in the eyes of the public? The impossibility of linking the French AB label (agriculture biologique) to a specific scheme of regulation would lead to its being abandoned and signify the end of "the French organic concept", which the professionals of the sector have been supporting, according to FNAB.
Furthermore, the envisaged decision-making procedure and the administrative regulations contained in the draft represent a dangerous increase in the powers of the European Commission over the evolution of regulating the organic industry and its technical aspects. This would have a damaging effect on the member states in the Community and on the national advisory bodies.
Last but not least, the proposed deadlines for the final vote on the regulations (June 2006) are totally unacceptable. "They do not allow us to engage in a proper process of discussion and consultation with the professionals that would be conducive to well thought out regulations - flexible but rigorous, precise and generally acceptable. We refuse to accept new regulations which have been cobbled together in less than six months" enforces FNAB.
The Commission’s text in no way meets the wishes of the organic movement - a more ethical approach to organics, in touch with consumers, developed with their involvement, based on fair trade and encouraging rural development. On the contrary, this draft blocks any initiative to secure the positive evolution of our method of production by prohibiting more precise local regulations and their identification. The FNAB finds it impossible to accept this diktat and thereby to deprive all those involved in organics of the chance "to do ever better".