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OF&G position on the EU regulation consultation

Date Published: 02/04/2014

The European Commission has now published its proposals for a new Regulation on organic production which is being consulted on by all member states and interested parties.

Organic Farmers & Growers is an active part of this process and will be feeding back into the consultation process on behalf of its licensees.

This is a significant piece of work and the resulting new Regulation, when it is finalised and enacted, could have notable impacts upon the sector.

First and foremost it should be stressed that OF&G is very much in favour of this process as a necessary way of ensuring that the laws governing EU organic production and its relationship with the rest of the world are up-to-date and fit for purpose. Any changes should be focused on supporting the integrity of the sector and consumer confidence, while helping the European organic sector satisfy the ever growing demand for organic food across the continent.

It should also be stressed that this is still in consultation and we are discussing the proposals with all sectors of the UK food industry.

There are practical realities to organic food and farming which must sit alongside the very proper aspirations for the sector to deliver what people expect from their organic food. Some key issues are raised in the proposals which are not clearly spelled out in the consultation documents and which we are now seeking to clarify.

Reporting of this process has focused heavily on the suggestion of organic holdings being required to be 100 per cent organic – rather than a mixture of organic and non-organic operations. Due to the scale and professionalism of most UK organic producers, we believe this to be a part of the proposed regulation aimed at smaller units in other parts of Europe, but we are seeking to ensure we have clarification of this and what it might mean in a UK context.

Another significant feature is the prospect of “group certification” which has been pressed for by a wide range of representative bodies. This is something we are not against in principle; however we are very concerned as to whether it can be delivered while still maintaining the critical integrity of organic status and consistency of systems across the supply chain.

In conclusion, Organic Farmers & Growers is fully supportive and engaged in this process and we are in consultation with OF&G licensees, major retailers, the NFU and trade bodies. We are approaching it with a practical view because we want an utterly trustworthy organic sector and we want as many people and businesses as possible to be part of that. Unnecessary obstacles should be removed and the regulation should be streamlined where possible because that will be in everyone’s interest, but it must not be at the expense of the integrity of the standards.

We very much welcome input and feedback of any kind from our licensees and we will be happy to answer any concerns or questions you have at this stage to the best of our ability. Where we do not yet have answers, we will seek to find them and share the information as the process develops.