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Reforming the EU Regulation on Organic Farming

On 16 June 2015 the Council of Agriculture Ministers took a significant step forwards regarding the European Regulation on organic farming. In Luxembourg Germany was able to persuade the other Member States to accept most of its demands.

For instance, no specific residue thresholds for organic products will be introduced at EU level. National threshold values such as those existing already in Italy and Belgium may only be continued until the end of 2020. The specific regulations on organic controls and production standards will still be regarded as a unit. Organic enterprises will also continue having to undergo an annual inspection, generally involving a physical on-site inspection.

The compromise text additionally includes regulations which support EU-wide harmonisation of inspection procedure implementation, in particular regarding the question of legal consequences in cases where residues are found. The number of delegated acts proposed by the Commission was greatly reduced. Furthermore the compromise text includes realistic conversion and production regulations.

The Council agreed on a general direction regarding the EU Commission proposal on the EU Organic Farming Regulation. This provides a solid basis for achieving a modernisation of the European organic farming regulations in negotiations with the European Parliament.

Retaining process controls, i.e. rules for, and control of, the entire production process, takes into account the particularly environmentally friendly production methods and consumer expectations.

An important German requirement for the new rules was that the same action be taken in all EU Member States where banned substances are found in organic products. Corresponding provisions are set out in a compromise, and the Commission has the task of laying down, in implementing provisions, the precise procedure that is to be followed when banned substances are found.

Consumers need to be able to rely on organic produce in future too. We have taken a large step forwards in respect of the European Regulation for organic farming.

Federal Minister Christian Schmidt

At the same time no specific residue thresholds for organic produce will be introduced, which would have, Germany believes, devalued the extensive regulations and controls encompassing the entire production process. Only in those Member States currently using such thresholds may these apply for a transitional period.

For German agreement it was critical that the regulations guaranteed fair competition and equal conditions for European producers and third country suppliers in the European internal market, and made the organic branch sustainable as a growth sector.

Further improvements were effected by, for instance, keeping flexibility arrangements for the use of non-organic seed and planting material and of breeding animals and by maintaining realistic conversion systems, including the option of marketing as a conversion product.

The consensus in the Council was also welcomed by Commissioner Hogan, since this meant that a basis was created for negotiations with the European Parliament.

The path to consensus in the Council

On 25 March 2014 the European Commission presented its proposal for a new regulation on organic production methods and the labelling of organic produce.

Germany in principle welcomed the Commission's objective to improve the relevant legislation and the labelling of organic products, to promote the sustainable development of the organic food sector and fair competition in this field, and to strengthen consumer confidence in organic products.

From the German perspective, however, the legislative proposal submitted by the Commission did not deliver suitable answers to existing weak points and would have led in effect primarily to significant and unjustifiable obstacles in producing, processing and trading organic products.

For this reason Germany and a number of other EU Member States asked for significant changes to the proposal, the Italian Presidency consequently submitting a guidance document in December 2014 which took account of these objections and served as a basis for the further negotiations in the first half of 2014 under the Latvian Presidency.

The European Commission gave the Council until Summer 2015 to reach a consensus and announced that failed negotiations would result in it withdrawing its proposal

As of:
22.06.15

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