(Beyond Pesticides, March 28, 2014) The European Commission released a new proposal this week to impose stricter regulations for organic food produced within the European Union (EU). The initiative would harmonize standards within the 29-member bloc, eliminate many exceptions currently allowed in organic agriculture while simultaneously improving consumer trust and addressing producer concerns. The move comes just as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is receiving comments on allowable organic materials.
The Commission’s proposal acknowledges the massive expansion of the organic market in the EU, which has quadrupled in size over the last ten years ””with similar patterns shown in U.S. organic market. “The future of the organic sector in the EU depends on the quality and integrity of the products sold under the European organic logo,” said Dacian CioloÅŸ, EU Commissioner for Agricultural and Rural Development. “The Commission is looking for more and better organic farming in the EU by consolidating consumer confidence in organic products and removing obstacles to the development of organic agriculture.”
The proposal will eliminate exceptions in organic farming through measures such as reducing the conventional feed and seed, and toughening limits for allowable pesticide and genetically engineered (GE) contaminants. The move is expected to improve consumer trust in the EU organic label.
Producer concerns on rising costs are also addressed as the proposal outlines methods to improve access to the global market through trade standards. In essence, the proposal will set out regulations for non-EU counties that want the EU organic seal. “We need a better supervision when it comes to imports. We want to negotiate with partners outside the EU and guarantee consistent standards,” said Commissioner CioloÅŸ. The proposal would also help farmers to more easily switch to organic by introducing group certification systems which will improve transparency and reduce administrative costs.
The EU Commission simultaneously released its Action Plan, which provides organic farmer and producer tools to implement policy changes for organic production in the EU. Specifically, the Plan provides information to farmers on EU farm initiatives and rural development, improves investment in agricultural research and development, and improves recognition of the EU organic label to targets such as schools.
However, the proposal is only the first step toward strengthening the EU organic label, now it’s in the hands of the European Parliament and European Council for approval. Meanwhile, here in the United States the public has the opportunity to comment to start the same process towards strengthening the USDA organic label.
Take Action to Defend Organic here in the United States
We need your voice now more than ever. The NOSB will meet in San Antonio, Texas from April 29 to May 1, 2014 to decide on a range of issues regarding the future of organic food and farming in the U.S. The Board is now accepting public comments until April 8, 2014 for its upcoming spring meeting. Beyond Pesticides has compiled a list of the issues before the Board, which can be viewed on the Keeping Organic Strong website. We strongly encourage all those concerned about the future of organic food to review the issues and submit a public comment to the NOSB.
Protect public trust in the organic food label. In addition to your public comment, Beyond Pesticides is asking you to help defend organic standards against USDA changes that will weaken public trust in the organic food label by sending an email or letter to your U.S. Representative and Senators, President Obama, and Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack. For more information visit Save Our Organic.
It’s important to remember that while we raise our voice in defense of the integrity of the organic label, organic farming is still significantly better for human health and a cleaner environment than its conventional, chemical-intensive counterpart. Through public involvement, we must protect the integrity of the organic label and the process that supports it. Otherwise, the market will disappear and with it the opportunity to solve serious environmental and health problems associated with chemical-intensive practices. Organic agriculture embodies an ecological approach to farming that focuses on feeding the soil and growing naturally healthy crops, whereas chemical-intensive agriculture depends on toxic chemicals and inputs which poison the soil, as well as air, water, farmworkers and consumers.
For more information on what you can do, see Beyond Pesticides’ Keeping Organic Strong website, which provides a number of resources for people to participate in the organic review process alongside the Board.