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New organic regulation being hurried through

Date Published: 25/10/2007

Work continues on a new EU organic regulation, but concerns are growing that an unsuitable and hurried revision could be forced on the industry. OF&G Chief Executive, Richard Jacobs, takes a closer look:

The EU 'Community' organic logo would be required
The EU 'Community' organic logo would be required

The current regulation ‘EEC 2092/91’ is being re-written and the new regulation ‘EC 834/2007’ will come into force from the 1st January 2009. This revision is being carried out to: bring the organic regulation into line with general Community Legislation; to tidy up the existing EU Organic Regulation, which has become increasingly cumbersome due to the addition of successive amendments; to, hopefully, create a more level playing field for organic operators across Europe.

The new regulation will consist of 3 parts: the ‘Whereas’s’; the ‘Articles’ and the ‘Implementing Rules’. To date the EU Commission has agreed and published the ‘Whereas’s’ and the ‘Articles’. The ‘Whereas’s’ set out the principals of the new regulation and provide the justification for what is being done and will be used as an aid to interpret the ‘Articles’ and ‘Implementing Rules’. The ‘Articles’ will provide the legal framework for the new regulation and the ‘Implementing Rules’ will provide the actual detailed rules.

There is still a great deal of work to be done, as we don’t yet have a draft of the ‘Implementing Rules’, although this is now expected early in 2008. Thus far we do know that there will be a new requirement to use the EU Organic logo, referred to as the Community logo, on all pre-packaged organic products produced in the EU. This is covered under Article 24. In addition when using the Community logo there will be a requirement to also indicate the place where the agricultural raw materials were farmed.

With regard to the ‘Implementing Rules’, and mindful of the fact that there is not a lot of time before the new regulation comes into force, the Commission has indicated that it is intending to move the majority of the implementing rules from the existing regulation into the new regulation. This may or may not be a good idea and could be the source of some considerable confusion if the old ‘Implementing Rules’ clash with the new ‘Whereas’s’ and ‘Articles’.

The latest round of discussions on the new regulation is focusing on all the various derogations contained within the existing regulation. In a shockingly worrying act of disregard the EU Commission has decided not to consult publicly on this part of the discussion. Instead a multiple-choice questionnaire has been circulated to its Organic Committee for completion and Member States have been ‘invited’ to complete a copy if they want to. To say that the questionnaire is limited is a bit of an understatement, there is very little room for additional comment or for teasing out the essential detail of these issues. Clearly the Commission is learning that if it doesn’t ask the question it won’t have to deal with the answers!

The short timescales and lack of meaningful consultation are a significant cause for concern. OF&G has been working hard through various channels to ensure that our voice is heard and that the new regulation is fair and appropriate. As we move closer to the implementation of the new regulation we will do our best to keep you all informed.

The following links may be of interest to anyone wishing to know more:

The new regulation 834/2007