In 1991, in the context of EU farm policy reform, the European Council of Agricultural Ministers adopted Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91 on organic farming and the labelling of organic farm produce and foods. Initially it covered only plant products. Further rules on animal products were introduced later, covering
- animal feed
- prevention of illness
- veterinary treatment
- animal protection
- livestock breeding
- the use of livestock manure
Organic production was defined as ruling out any use of genetically modified organisms and derived products. At the same time, the regulation gave the green light to importing organic products from non-EU countries with production criteria and inspection systems on a par with the EU's.
As a result of constant additions and amendments to European law, the regulation has now become extremely long and complex.
The original regulation was important because it laid down EU-wide minimum standards enabling consumers to buy organic products in any EU country in the certainty that they met the same minimum requirements. EU governments and private organisations were free to introduce stricter standards where they so wished.