Organic Regulation review: Commission focuses on ‘substance over speed’

6.1% of fresh vegetables produced in France come from organic farming. [George Groutas/Flickr]

When it comes to the Organic Regulation review, the European Commission is more interested in “substance over speed” has learned.

Since the autumn of 2013, the Commission has worked on a proposal for a new law to replace the current Organic Regulation.

There is an ongoing trialogue process which is proceeding at a pace agreed on by the three EU institutions at the beginning of the Slovak Presidency, an EU spokesperson told EURACTIV.

Asked to comment on “rumors”  that the Commission will withdraw the proposal if no agreement is reached by the end of the year, the official emphasised that the EU executive cared more about quality than speed.

“Progress is being made and the Commission continues to play a constructive role, particularly in terms of helping to bridge the gaps between the co-legislators. We remain committed to achieving an acceptable political agreement as soon as possible but, as has been said before, the focus is on substance over speed,” the spokesperson noted.

Effective application

Because the regulation is highly complex and detailed, the Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM EU) told EURACTIV it was important that the final text improves on the existing law by making sure it is applied effectively.

“The technical soundness of the text will have a profound impact on the ability of national authorities, certifiers and organic operators to correctly apply it,” organic farmers stressed, saying “opportunities to use the new regulation as a tool for the further development of organic are still being missed.”

“Instead of drawn-out discussions on the thresholds and the control system, we would have welcomed more consideration, for example, of new requirements to help organic processors improve their environmental performance,” IFOAM said.

Organic crop area on the rise

A Eurostat survey published last month found that the area devoted to organic farming has grown by almost two million hectares since 2010.

With more than 11 million hectares of certified areas under conversion in 2015, organic farming made up 6.2% of EU total utilised agricultural area.

The highest share was recorded in Austria (20%, or 552k hectares) followed by Sweden (17%, or 519k hectares) and Estonia (16%, or 156k hectares).

On 24 March 2014, the European Commission published its legislative proposal for a new organic regulation accompanied by an impact assessment report and a new European Organic Action Plan.

This was the result of a process which began in 2012 when the Commission decided to review the current legislative and political framework for organic farming.

The Commission completed an impact assessment in summer 2013 and from autumn 2013 worked on a proposal for a new regulation to replace the current Organic Regulation.

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