Parliament gives green light to wider eco-label

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The European Parliament yesterday (2 April) officially endorsed a first-reading agreement on extending the EU’s eco-label scheme to new products, including processed food.

The EU assembly backed the Commission’s July 2008 proposal to revise the voluntary eco-label scheme with an overwhelming majority (633 votes in favour, 18 against). The revised legislation aims to widen the number of products covered by the scheme and reduce costs by cutting administrative red tape.

Under its eco-label scheme, the Commission sets individual criteria for each product group before awarding the Community flower label.

Currently, over 3,000 products including detergents, paper and shoes have received the recognition.

EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas welcomed the Parliament’s adoption of the scheme, saying that it demonstrated “the will of the [EU] institutions to take on directly the idea of sustainable development and consumption”. 

He said that having a single, EU-wide eco-label would do away with the “consumer confusion” that mushrooming label schemes had caused in recent years.

“The eco-label and the audit scheme do allow possibilities for best and more effective management of environmental impact,” Dimas added.

After EU member-state representatives have formally adopted the regulation in the Council of Ministers, processed food and feed products will be added to the list. MEPs originally wanted to leave food outside the scheme, but obtained assurances that the Commission will conduct a study on the feasibility of setting reliable environmental criteria for such products before setting any standards (EURACTIV 18/02/09).

Food products will not only be assessed according to their production processes, but also a lifecycle approach, including the environmental impact of transport, the agreement states. Moreover, the Commission will consider only awarding the eco-label to organic products, to make it easier for consumers to navigate the label jungle.

MEPs also secured specific emphasis on reduced animal testing in the revision of the award criteria for different product groups.

The Parliament refused to budge on excluding products that contain substances that are toxic, carcinogenic, mutagenic or otherwise hazardous to the environment. “These should be taken off the market, not rewarded with eco-labels,” Finnish Green MEP Satu Hassi stated.

In the debate before the vote, Hassi said it was essential to award the label only to the best products and to strengthen these progressively. “The criteria will have to be dynamic so as technology advances, it will become stricter,” she stressed.

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