EC promises organic food sector framework

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union Organic farming

The EU's agriculture commissioner has promised to establish a
framework within which the organic food sector can develop to its
full potential.

Speaking at last week's Biofach Organic Food Fair, Mariann Fischer Boel told delegates that there a lot of work is still to be done in order to build on the sector's impressive growth.

"There is more to be done in terms of information," she said.

"Many consumers are still confused about what organic farming is, about what organic products can do for them, and about the various standards, logos and labels.

As I have said, our promotion and information campaign will attack this problem head-on."

Fischer Boel added that making public support for organic farming more effective should be a priority, and that research in this area should be strengthened.

"And we also have to do more in terms of improving and reinforcing our organic farming standards and inspection requirements.

Standards are central to organic farming.

"The standards must also be clear and coherent, and they must cover all necessary areas.

Furthermore, our inspection regime would be more effective if we based it more on assessing risk."

The organic food sector continues to grow steadily.

In 2005 in the European Union of 25 Member States, around 6 million hectares were either farmed organically or were being converted to organic production.

This marks an increase of more than 2 per cent on 2004.

Over the same period, the number of organic operators grew by more than 6 per cent.

And there has been particular interest in organic production in many of the New Member States.

Many in the sector would now like to see the sector established within a strong framework.

"We have made good progress on finalising a new regulation," said Fischer Boel.

"Agriculture ministers agreed on a 'general approach' in December.

I expect to hear the opinion of the European Parliament in March; the agriculture council would then be able to adopt a final version of the regulation in June."

Fischer Boel said she supported the move towards setting out the basics of organic farming in Europe more fully, more clearly and more logically.

She said that the scope, the principles and the basic production rules should be together in one text, rather than spread out, as at present.

"This is in line with our drive for simpler agricultural legislation," she said.

"It would also allow us to 'sell' the organic approach better to people who may still be sceptical about it.

It's hard to sell a product that you can't accurately describe.

"Secondly, it makes sense to simplify the rules about the level of organic material needed to make a food product 'organic'.

I believe that a product should carry an 'organic' label only if 95 per cent or more of its content is organic."

Fischer Boel added that it would be valuable to introduce a mandatory EU logo for all organic goods produced in the European Union.

This logo, she said, should also be available to all imported products, which comply with the EU standards and control system.

"This is about clarity for the consumer.

All organic products on sale in the Union meet certain standards, and the consumer must see this clearly - only then can the Single Market work smoothly."

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