Ministers vote favourably on new EU organic regulation

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cent, Fischer boel, European union, Organic food

European agriculture ministers yesterday reached agreement over new
organic regulation and labelling that will simplify the sector for
farmers and consumers and is expected to help drive further

Figures released yesterday by Eurostat demonstrate growth in the organic sector over the last decade. In 2005 the agricultural area devoted to organics was 3.9 per cent of the total for the EU25 - 6.1 m hectares in total. In 1998 1.8 per cent of agricultural land in the EU15 was organic; the comparable figure for those same countries in 2005 was 4.1 per cent. However some factors have caused some confusion in member states. For instance, under the old regulation, dating from 1991, a loophole existed that meant the unintended presence of genetically modified organisms above the 0.9 per cent did not preclude products being sold as organic. Now, however, following a favourable vote by agriculture ministers at their meeting in Luxembourg, the GMO rules are clarified: GMO products are still strictly banned for use in organic production, and the 0.9 per cent accidental approved GMO threshold applies also to organic food. ​The new rules also provide a complete set of objectives, principles and basic rules for organic production, and also include a permanent import regime and more consistent control regime. In fact, the changes have been in the pipeline since the Commission proposal at the end of 1995. The favourable outcome of the vote represents a political agreement, but the text must now be translated prior to adoption. A spokesperson for the European Commission told that adoption is a formality, and there will be no further changes to content. The regulation will enter into force in January 2009, giving member states time to adapt their own legislation accordingly. Other key aspects include mandatory use of the EU organic logo - but national or private logos can also be used alongside this. The logo may only be used if 95 per cent of the ingredients are organic, and the place where the products were farmed must also be indicated. The new regulation relates to organic livestock, acquaculture, plant and feed production and the production of organic foods, but they also form a basis for add-on rules relating to organic wine, seaweed and yeasts. Mariann Fischer Boel, commissioner for agriculture and rural development, said: "This is an excellent agreement which will help consumers to recognize organic products throughout the EU more easily and give them assurances of precisely what they are buying."​ Fischer Boel also expressed a will that the new rules provide a framework for continuing growth, both through market demand and entrepreneurship of European farmers.

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