The European Commission has kicked off a review of EU legislation on fertilisers in a bid to adopt draft proposals to fully harmonise the market by the end of 2012, EURACTIV has learned.
The Commission has started to assess regulatory options to fully harmonise the internal market for all types of fertiliser and extend it to growing matter and soil improvers.
The review process follows a recently published ex-post evaluation of the current Fertilisers Regulation, which dates back to 2003.
The regulation only ensures the free circulation of mineral fertilisers approved at EU level and does not include "national fertilisers" placed on the market separately in individual countries (see 'Background').
According to the Commission, member states are reluctant to accept the EU principle of mutual recognition for national fertilisers. In addition, it says technical barriers hinder intra-EU trade, leading to a potential distortion of the market which it says should be addressed.
In addition, a growing amount of fertilisers are not covered by EU laws because they are not of mineral origin, like those currently approved at European level. Indeed, ever larger quantities of fertilisers are now produced from organic waste streams. And others which are used as inputs for agriculture, such as soil improvers and growing matter, are also not harmonised at EU level.
The current provisions of the EU Fertilisers Regulation do not always fully address environmental concerns either, the Commission says.
Concerns about fertilisers have in recent years centred on environmental issues, such as the presence of heavy metals in mineral fertilisers, but this is not reflected in the current law, the Commission says. It suggests closing this gap by including maximum levels of heavy metals in the Fertilisers Regulation.
Consultation under way
Three external contractors have been commissioned by the EU executive's enterprise and industry department to provide technical support in the review process to study the related economic, environmental and social impacts of amending the current rules.
Their tasks include reviewing existing national fertiliser laws, regulations and standards which are not within the scope of the current EU regulation and advising on the establishment of essential safety requirements for full harmonisation of legislation on mineral and organic fertilisers, including raw materials and final products.
The data collection process will also include an analysis of available literature and stakeholder interviews.
All actors in the fertiliser supply chain and other interested parties are invited to participate in the revision of the Fertiliser Regulation by responding to an online questionnaire by the end of May.
The survey aims to collect detailed information on fertilising materials and on how their placing on the market is regulated – or not – in the member states.