EU Organic Regulation: Haggling over the details
by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)
The EU Commission, member states and the organic industry are struggling to determine the details of the new EU Organic Regulation. It depends on these actors whether the regulation will lead to progress or chaos. An event at Biofach provided information on the current situation.
The new EU Organic Regulation will come into force at the beginning of 2021. Until then, the EU Commission and member states will have to agree on dozens of detailed regulations to supplement the regulation. Nicolas Verlet, the Commission's chief organic construction officer, has set a strict timetable for the necessary talks and votes. He received much praise for this and for the involvement of the organic sector in the discussions at the event organised by the organic umbrella organisation BÖLW.
The question: How much residue may be?
Discussions on a particularly important topic are due to begin in March 2019: The importance of pesticide contamination for the control of organic products and the precautionary measures to be taken by businesses against such contamination. After all, Article 29 of the Regulation provides for "official measures" as soon as authorities or control bodies receive information on the "presence of unauthorised products and substances".
Strictly interpreted, this would mean that the inspectors would have to temporarily block goods as soon as they became aware that even the trace of a pesticide had been detected. "Such traces can be found in 30% of organic products," recalled specialist lawyer Hanspeter Schmidt. Alexander Beck, Chairman of the Association of Organic Food Manufacturers, presented and promoted a much more practical reading of the article. A practical arrangement of the new defaults, into which the know-how of authorities, control places and economics must flow, is necessary now, said Beck.
Elisabeth Bünder, the head of the organic farming department in the German Federal Ministry of Agriculture, advocated the most precise and detailed specifications possible. But it is also important that the new legal framework does not unnecessarily complicate economic processes, she said. For the European Association of European Organic Control Council (EOCC), Georg Eckert from the ABCert control body emphasised the process quality of organic farming. Organic is not a product seal, for example for freedom from harmful substances: "The certificate is rather a driving licence that confirms: This company can produce organic."
First detailed regulations before conclusion
Detailed regulations on agricultural production are already well advanced. Nicolas Verlet emphasised that legal certainty for farmers should be created by April for investment-relevant requirements such as stables and open-air runs.
But there are still discussions about the last details:
- BÖLW board member Alexander Gerber criticised that the EU Commission also demanded a run for parent poultry. This would jeopardize what has been achieved so far. It would make more sense to first ensure that organic parent animals exist throughout the EU.
- It is also problematic that the Commission rejects the crediting of the winter gardens to the stable area permitted in Germany for poultry. If this national regulation would be removed, there would be massive reductions in the number of laying hens and fattening animals.
- Finally, Gerber warned that it was crucial to develop the new organic law with a sense of proportion - so that farms could continue to be successful in organic farming.
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