Consumer awareness, financial assistance and GMO co-existence were among the burning issues discussed at a Commission hearing on organic farming on 22 January.
At a hearing on organic food and farming held by the Commission on 22 January, Agriculture Commissioner Franz Fischler announced that the long awaited Action Plan on Organic Farming (which will include a range of possible actions designed to boost organic farming in Europe) would be published by the Commission in April.
The aim of the hearing, in which over 100 organisations participated, was to consult a wide range of stakeholders and experts in agriculture, environment and consumer protection on the issue of organic farming.
The Action Plan will examine how supply and demand trends can be better monitored and will design ways to fully harness the market potential of organic farming. This also includes measures to improve consumer information on organic farming and available products. However, the success of organic farming also depends on financial assistance and Mr Fischler maintained that a coherent set of measures for the organic sector was crucial for a successful support policy.
The co-existence of GMOs and organic crops is an issue of particular concern for farmers. Environmentalists and organic farmers have criticised the Commission's guidelines on co-existence (see
EURACTIV 24 July 2003) as they fail to establish specific GMO contamination thresholds for organic farming. This concern was taken on board by the Council in December 2003, which recommended that the Action Plan on Organic Farming include strategic objectives for the protection of organic crops against GMO presence. The Commission meeting on 28 January will be focusing on this issue.