EU Organic Regulation
EU Organic Regulation
The EU Organic Regulation is currently being reviewed. We’ve been working hard to make sure that the new version will work for organic farmers worldwide, in particular our licensees.
For the time being UK food producers need to continue to meet the EU Organic Regulation. We don’t yet know what will happen in the longer term, but the EU Regulation will still be important for everyone involved in import and export.
What is the EU Organic Regulation?
EU law defines the minimum standards for organic products that are produced, manufactured, imported into, sold or traded within the EU - in the Organic Regulation. It also sets out the inspection and certification system that ensures that these requirements are being met.
Why is the regulation being reviewed?
The Commission thinks we need a better basis for the long term development of organic production in the EU. It believes there are legal and bureaucratic problems with the current regulation and that some rules are inadequate or allow Member States and certification bodies too much discretion. It also wants to change the arrangements for imports and exports.
What’s your view?
The current law has only been in place since 2009 and although it isn’t perfect we don’t think it should be scrapped. The bureaucratic problems and other issues could be fixed with careful editing and more intelligent drafting – addressing these certainly doesn’t justify a full scale review. IFOAM EU, which represents the European organic movement, agrees, stating that ‘without substantial changes … [we] would have no choice but to reject the proposal’ for the new regulation.
What are the problems with this review?
The Commission is proposing to simply eliminate problematic parts of the current regulation. For example it would ban farms from producing both organic and non-organic goods. We know that allowing organic production to take place alongside non-organic is an important way into organic for many farmers. When managed carefully, there is no reason for this approach to pose additional risks.
The Commission is imposing a ‘one size fits all’ approach to practices and inputs across the EU and in all countries which export to the EU. This is unhelpful for EU farmers, but it flies in the face of common sense for those in less developed countries. Organic rules need to respond to the local climate, geography and farming conditions. There are already well-established and functional equivalent rules that accommodate these differences in a fair, balanced and transparent way. We are urging the Commission to continue with the existing approach.
The process of negotiating a new regulation has prevented work on any significant improvements to the current regulation for the past four years. We would have preferred that the huge resources the EU and organic organisations – including the Soil Association – has invested in the review had been spent on developing and refining the current legislation.
How else could the current problems be solved?
The main area for improvement is in better cooperation and coordination between certification bodies, Member States – who are responsible for how the law is applied in their country – and a more efficient use of the Commission’s staff and resources. The bureaucratic problems which led to this review could be better solved with a more straightforward and joined-up approach.
What are you doing to help?
We’re working hard to improve the proposals and prevent the worst elements from making it into the final text.
- We’re supporting the EU Parliament and Member States to strengthen their positions and resolve, aiming to bring the proposals closer to the text of the current regulation.
- We comment on and help with drafting proposals for Defra (the UK Member State), where the Organic Farming team are doing excellent work.
- We work with IFOAM EU to influence the Parliament text and work with the Presidency – they coordinate and oversee the negotiations.
The published amendments of the Member States and the Parliament show that our efforts have been successful so far.
What are the next steps and how can I help?
We have spoken to and consulted some licensees for expert advice and input and will continue to do so.
The Commission’s current plan is for the new regulation to be published in July 2017, with a suitable grace period for organic producers to adapt. However, there are a number of steps which need to happen before this timescale can be confirmed:
- The final text will be agreed through a series of negotiations – the so-called Trilogue process, run by the EU Presidency.
- As the Trilogues progress this autumn, the final shape of the text should start to emerge.
- The final draft will require political agreement from Parliament and from Member States. If we feel that the final text is not suitable then we will ask our licensees and supporters for your help.