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What To Know About the European Union’s New Organic Food Rules

The organic farming industry has been booming throughout the European Union (EU), which has prompted the governing body to reassess organic rules and policies in the region. The European Commission says that the region’s organic market has quadrupled in size during the past decade, so rules need to be updated and adjusted to accommodate future developments and challenges.

Photo credit: Sandpiper via WikiMedia Commons

According to Dacian Ciolos, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development:

The future of the organic sector in the EU depends on the quality and integrity of the products sold under the European organic logo. The Commission is looking for more and better organic farming in the EU by consolidating consumer confidence in organic products and removing obstacles to the development of organic agriculture. This package is good for consumers and good for farmers. Consumers will have better guarantees on organic food made and sold in the EU and farmers, producers and retailers will have access to a larger market, both within and outside the EU.

Consumer confidence and producer confidence are at the heart of the new EU proposals. The EU also wants to make it easier for conventional farmers to switch over to organic methods. Although organic farming must stay true to its principles, it also must adapt to meet public demands and adhere to environmental sustainability standards.

The new proposal includes a plan of action to get better growing information to organic farmers, strengthen relationships between research entities and organic farmers, and encourage the use of organic foods in schools. The Commission also wants to make it easier for small farmers to jump on board the organic food bandwagon by presenting a group certification system to them. It also wants to address the international dimension of organic trade, reduce administrative costs for farmers, and improve transparency. However, some farmers and environmentalists are concerned that the newly proposed rules don’t go far enough, and that they will discourage conventional farmers from converting their practices to adhere to organic farming standards.

For these measures to take effect, they must be approved by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, which likely won’t happen until after the May 2014 European Parliament elections. But as the Commission’s Varvara Bektasiadou points out, “It will probably come into force in 2016, but the new rules will not be applicable until 2017 so the sector has time to adjust.”

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