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Organic sector fears consultation is ‘loaded’

Date Published: 04/03/2013

A consultation on the future of organic food and farming launched by EU bosses has been widely criticised by leading organisations across the sector.

The multiple choice questionnaire was unveiled online, asking any citizen who wishes to complete it what they consider to be the way forward for EU organics in a number of areas.

However those in the organic sector, including leading UK organic certifier, Organic Farmers & Growers (OF&G), have moved to condemn the questionnaire for its lack of clarity and the fact that some questions appear to be so misleading as to be inaccurate.

The IFOAM EU Group, which represents more than 160 organisations across Europe, has highlighted the consultation to its members as a matter of urgency, given that its results could feed into proposals to amend the current regulation by as soon as the end of 2013.

The Group has pointed out that some of the questions posed are too technical for consumers and those with limited technical knowledge to answer in a meaningful way, yet at the same time do not offer enough scope for expert responses to be given in useful detail.

The “Consultation for the review of the European policy on organic agriculture” also contains questions which appear to be framed with very selective and leading language, which the IFOAM EU Group goes as far as to describe as “loaded”.

Richard Jacobs, Chief Executive of Organic Farmers & Growers, which represents a large proportion of the UK’s organic sector, said: “This questionnaire has appeared somewhat out of the blue and many of us are left wondering precisely what the European Commission is trying to achieve with it. It is mostly a multiple-choice exercise, with very little scope for meaningful and helpful feedback from those who know what they are talking about. Our chief concern is that such multiple choice options can be interpreted very widely, to suit any number of agendas.

“However, unfortunately, we all recognise that we are unlikely to get the EU to withdraw or improve it as this stage, so the best thing we can do is provide advice, collectively, on what we think are the most useful answers for the health and benefit of the organic sector and organic consumers as a whole. We are grateful to IFOAM EU for very quickly doing this work, which we support and will be circulating to our licensees and many friends and associates, encouraging them to respond.”

The consultation is open until April 10, 2013 and can be found at http://ofng.me/euconsult, with the [wpfilebase tag=fileurl id=240 linktext=’suggested responses from IFOAM EU here’ /].