In addition to the Council Regulation, two Commission Regulations were adopted in 2008 regulating organic production, the import and distribution of organic products as well as their labelling.
This regulation establishes the legal framework for all levels of production, distribution, control and labelling of organic products which may be offered and traded in the EU. It determines the continued development of organic production through the provision of clearly defined goals and principles. General production, control and labelling guidelines were established by the Council Regulation and can therefore only be changed by the European Council of Agricultural Ministers. The previous Regulation (EEC) No. 2092/91 was simultaneously repealed.
The new labelling rules in connection with the obligatory use of the EU organic logo have applied since 1 July 2010 with a transitional period until 1 July 2012.
Area of applicability
The Council Regulation applies to the following agricultural products, including aquaculture and yeast:
- Living or unprocessed products
- Processed foods
- Animal feed
- Seeds and propagating material
Collection of wild plants and seaweed is also included in the scope of this Regulation
Not included in its scope:
- Products from hunting and fishing of wild animals.
The following Commission Regulations have been adopted thus far:
- Commission Regulation (EC) No. 889/2008 of 5 September 2008 with detailed rules on production, labelling and control
- Commission Regulation (EC) No. 1235/2008 of 8 December 2008 with detailed rules concerning import of organic products from third countries
In Commission Regulation (EC) No. 889/2008 all levels of plant and animal production are regulated, from the cultivation of land and keeping of animals to the processing and distribution of organic foods and their control. They go into great technical detail and cover products such as yeast, wine, mushrooms and products from aquaculture.
Multiple Annexes are attached to the Commission Regulation. Within these one can find the following:
- Products permitted in organic farming, such as fertilisers, soil conditioners and pesticides
- Minimum requirements on the size of housing and exercise areas for organic livestock.
- Non-organic animal feed, feed additives and processing aids for the production of compound feed and premixtures permitted in organic farming.
- Non-organic ingredients, additives and processing aids permitted in organic food production (including yeast production).
- Products for cleaning and disinfection
- Requirements on the Community logo.
These Annexes and other parts of this Commission Regulation can be amended by the Commission so as to keep them up to date with regard to continuing developments in technology, science and the organic market.
In order to facilitate the implementation of the new rules and to incorporate some expiring exemptions of the previous organic Regulation, transitional measures were foreseen.
Moreover the Commission services have prepared a working document on official controls in the organic sector that explains certain aspects of the control system set up by the EU organic legislation and by the EU horizontal legislation on food and feed controls. Although this document is primarily targeted at the Member States' administration, it can be also used by the wider public to get a basic understanding of the functioning of official controls of organic products.
In addition to EU legislation on organic farming and organic production, organically operating farmers and processors must also adhere to generally applicable rules on agricultural production and processing of agricultural products. That means that all generally applicable EU rules on the regulation of the production, processing, marketing, labelling and control of agricultural products also apply to organic products.
The usual bilateral recognition of third countries by the Commission in cooperation with the Member States are maintained. In doing so, the Commission, with the support of the Member States, supervises the production and control of organic products which must be aligned with the goals and principles of organic legislation, but maybe are not produced in exactly the same way. A list of recognised third countries can be found in Annex III of the Import Regulation.
The import regulations ensure that organic products can be imported also from third countries which have not yet attained bilateral recognition.
Products that are produced and controlled in precisely the same manner as in the EU may have free access to the common market. Control bodies that intend to undertake such controls must apply to the EU Commission and be authorised by the Commission and the Member States for this purpose. Their supervision is directly incumbent on the Commission in cooperation with the Member States.
However, since production conditions in third countries are sometimes different from those in Europe, it may not be possible to apply exactly the same rules for production or controls. Therefore it is possible also to allow similar rules that conform with the goals and principles of the organic legislation.
. Currently control bodies approved for this purpose carry out this inspection in situ. These control bodies must also be directly approved for this purpose by the EU Commission and the Member States and remain under their direct supervision. Guidelines have been published that explain how control bodies can apply to get approved, how they should be supervised and which other measures are necessary in relation to imports of organic products and their control.
The import regulations facilitate organic imports into the EU on the whole whilst at the same time promoting better monitoring, thus counteracting deception and fraud.