EU Organic Regulation: news, challenges and chances

by Karin Heinze (comments: 0)

The panel with the new Head of the Organic Unit of DG Agri, Nicolas Verlet, showed progress and problems of the new regualtion.

The panel with the new Head of the Organic Unit of DG Agri, Nicolas Verlet (on the right), showed progress and problems of the new regulation. Photo © Karin Heinze

After endless discussions and lobby work of organic associations and stakeholders, the new EU Organic Regulation is now a fact and has reached the second phase. On this stage, in a common process, the responsible EU-institutions and representatives of the organic sector adapt details of the regulation and inconsistencies in order to make the new rules beneficial for the value chain and for consumers. A panel at the IFOAM EU Organic Processing Conference discussed challenges and opportunities together with the Nicolas Verlet, new Head of the Organic Unit of DG Agri, EU Commission.

„Although improvements have been made compared to the initial proposal of 2014 and many of IFOAM EU recommendations have been taken up in the final text, it is still far from an ideal text“, stated Eduardo Cuoco, IFOAM EU Director, end of November last year, when it was clear that a new Organic Regulation is approved. (EU Organic Regulation: strong institutional commitment needed). However, now it seems that the stakeholders have accepted the fact that the new organic regulation will become effective in January 2021 as a positive prospect. Anyhow, until end of 2020 many details must be discussed and the text has to be adjusted step by step.

Nicolas Verlet´s goal is to bring the new EU Organic Regulation to its end.

Nicolas Verlet´s goal is to bring the new EU Organic Regulation to its end. Photo © Karin Heinze

New Head of the DG Agri Organic Unit calls for collaboration

Emanuel Busacca, Regulation Manager at IFOAM EU moderated the panel at the second day of the 5th Organic Processing Conference in Zwolle (Netherlands) on 17th January 2018. At the beginning of the discussion, he asked all stakeholders of the organic sector to be constructive and work together to make the final regulation a positive instrument. Nicolas Verlet, new Head of the Organic Unit of DG Agri, EU Commission thanked him for the "good start in collaboration". Then Mr Verlet gave an overview of the status quo and which steps are to be taken next. He promised that the communication towards and the inclusion of the organic sector will be much closer than in the past. „Thank you for considering that the approval of the regulation is positive news - this is a good start“, he said and explained the further timeline of the implementation of the new law.

Opportunity for clarifications

There will be a tough calendar for the next two years, Verlet said. The next steps will be clarifying and translating the text into all member state languages, a legacy check as well as the approvals through the EU institutions before the final formal regulation will be ready. This aim will probably be achieved in April 2019, followed by the last vote in the EU Council. The regulation contains around 50 articles, quite many as Verlet emphasized. But to make proposals on the delegated and implemented acts that opens the door for further improvement by the stakeholders. „A clear calendar gives all stakeholders the chance to understand and prepare themselves and bring their contribution to make the regulation a valuable instrument“, Verlet stated.

Michel Reynaud (Ecocert) explained the changes in control and export.

Michel Reynaud (Ecocert) explained the changes in control and export. Photo © Karin Heinze

Better communication to understand the objectives

Experts from the organic sector like Michel Reynaud (Ecocert) and Alex Beck (AÖL), mainly agreed with the plan Nicolas Verlet introduced. Anyhow, Michel Reynaud critisized the complicated communication and misunderstandings in the last years. However, he is confident that in future there will be more constructive collaboration. „It is very important to see where we want to go and how we can achieve that. A close communication and understanding the background instead of working one against the other is necessary“, he said.

The video shows a summary of the discussion.




Important changes in the new Regulation

Alex Beck, Chair of the IFOAM EU Processors Interest Group, explained the relevant changes of the new regulation compared to the current regulation. He listed new rules for flavors, for baby food and for retailers as the most important. Verlet added the fact that it is allowed to extent the scope of ranges for example essential oils within the regulation.

IFOAM EU Director Eduardo Cuoco had some questions towards the panel.

IFOAM EU Director Eduardo Cuoco had some questions towards the panel. Photo © Karin Heinze

The yearly physical controls in the control system will remain. But quite important, according to Michel Reynaud, is the reinforcement of the risk assessment in the control system. „This is a change in the spirit“, he said. Concerning to import rules the equivalency of third countries will change into compliance to the new EU organic legislation. This is not completely new, Reynaud explained, it is already practiced in China, Japan and the United States. It's supposed to be an advantage, as it also opens markets for exports from the EU to third countries and can work as a kind of protection for European enterprises.  

Recognition of market and society is necessary

Ronald van Marlen, Stichting EKO, Biokap, VBP Vereniging voor Biologische Producenten, is regarding the development somehow critically. He urgently asked to recognise the society and the market environment. While organic products are exploding on the markets, organic companies cannot only focus on the regulation because there is a lot of competition and a development of the market, he emphasised. The „big guys“ are „smelling the money“ and business opportunities, he said. "The big companies will not wait, they lobby. And the market already defines what organic is." Towards the EU institution he recommends "follow the money to avoid fraud“.

Ronald van Marlen

Ronald van Marlen (second from left): "The consumer already expects that organic can be trusted“, he further argumented. "But the market is more and more defining organic as a clean product. Only that is a false perspective", he said: "We have organic principles and it must be a mutal effort to communicate that to the consumers.“ (Find the discussion on the video)

Environmental pollution is a global fact

„Drift is everywhere and organic cannot be blamed for that. If this is not clear for consumers organic could become irrelevant on the market. In the moment we are frozen, discussing the new regulation, we do not move and the big companies they shave us“, Van Marlen says and compared the current situation in the organic sector with a blend of a comedy, a fairy tale happiness story and a horror show.

All panalists and speakers received an organic gift from organiser

All panalists and speakers received an organic gift from organiser "Bionext". Photo Karin Heinze.





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