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OFIS: Organic Farming Information System

OFIS
    In 1999, the European Union-15 was ranked the second largest organic farming area in the world (3.8 million ha). Organic farming is one of the most dynamic agricultural sectors in the European Union with organic land increasing from 0.7 million hectares in 1993 to 3.3 million hectares in 1999. One of the reasons for the growth appears to be an upsurge of interest among both consumers and farmers in farming practices that respect the environment. It is therefore important that organic certification, inspections and import authorisations are properly regulated. OFIS is a key tool used by the EU Member States and the European Commission to exchange agricultural data on organic products and provide up-to-date information to the general public.

Last update: 02/2004

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What is OFIS?

Objectives

How does it work?

Achievements

Who benefits?

The role of IDA

Background information

Technical information

Documentation

 

what is OFIS

OFIS is a telematics network that supports the implementation of organic farming policies. It provides a system that allows for the electronic exchange of organic farming data between the EU Member States and the European Commission and supports the management of related business procedures. OFIS also facilitates the dissemination of information to European citizens and operators through the provision of public data on the EUROPA website.

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Objectives

OFIS aims to facilitate the work of the EU Member States, the European Commission and the delegations of the Standing Committee on Organic Farming.

This Committee - made up of representatives of the Member States and chaired by a Commission representative - has been set up to ensure a close collaboration among responsible parties and to guarantee a uniform application of EU legislation.

OFIS also seeks to improve communication between the EU Member States and the European Commission in the area of organic farming by providing an efficient means for gathering and disseminating relevant information.

The legal basis of Organic Farming, and OFIS in particular, is laid down in Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91 of 24 June 1991 on organic production of agricultural products and indications referring thereto on agricultural products and foodstuffs.

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How does it work?

OFIS allows EU Member States to use a web-based information system to notify the European Commission and, when required, other EU Member States of information related to organic farming policy implementation. Electronic notifications will replace the more traditional notification letters that are currently sent.

The information exchanged through OFIS includes:

  • Non-organic ingredients provisionally authorised by the Member States (see background information);
  • Authorisations granted by MS on equivalency for imports from third countries;
  • List of approved inspection bodies or authorities;
  • Statistical data on organic farming production.

All information will be housed centrally in a database. Administrations in the EU Member States and the Commission will be able to query the database to obtain detailed and consolidated lists. Once fully online, the application will be fully multilingual.

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Achievements

  • The feasibility study for OFIS was concluded in July 2001 and a high-level functional model, the system architecture and an application prototype were proposed. A global cost estimation was also provided.
  • The development and validation of OFIS began in December 2001. Detailed functional and technical analyses have now been completed and the first version of the system has been released.
  • Testing and user-training have been finalised in the first quarter 2003. The application for restricted access (Member States and the Commission) has entered into the pre-production phase. Once it will be operational the traditional notification system (writing) will definitely cease and be replaced by the electronic one.
  • The OFIS public website is now available in its English version. It provides updated information about 'Imported Products from Third Countries' and 'Actual Ingredient Authorisations' including predifined reports in PDF format: the whole contents are searchable through a search engine.

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Who benefits?

Public Administrations: The Commission, the Member States' delegations in the Standing Committee on Organic Farming and their working groups will be the main beneficiaries of the OFIS system. For example, approximately 17,700 notification letters will be replaced by electronic distribution. OFIS also promises an overall improvement in the quality, the accuracy and the relevance of the information.

Businesses: Farmers, organic food producers and consumers. These groups will also benefit from transparent and accessible information. As soon as the website is online, there will be a nightly transfer of data (e.g. the import notifications from third countries) to the public site, and producers as well as consumers will be able to access information in the form of reports and queries.

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The role of IDA

IDA has provided funding and guidelines for the development of OFIS. This project will also use the TESTA network and some of the information provided by the OFIS system may also be disseminated using CIRCA.

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Background information

Article 11 of the Council Regulation (EEC) 2092/91 is the basis for import notifications: 'Where a Member State has received sufficient evidence from an importer, it shall forthwith notify the Commission and the other Member States the third country from which products are imported and supply detailed information on the production and inspection arrangements and the guarantees that they will be permanently and effectively applied.'

According to the Commission Regulation (EEC) 207/93 Article 3.2, the Member State should notify the other Member States and the Commission about the authorisation of the use of ingredients that cannot be found in organic production.

Art. 15 of the Council Regulation (EEC) 2092/91 stipulates the reporting obligations: 'Before 1 July each year, Member States shall inform the Commission of measures taken in the preceding year for the implementation of this Regulation and shall communicate in particular a) a list of the operators who, on 31 December of the previous year, had given notification and are subject to the inspection system; b) a report on supervision'. In addition: 'By 31 March each year, Member States shall inform the Commission of the list of inspection bodies approved on 31 December of the previous year, their legal and operational structure, their standard inspection procedure, their penalty arrangements and, where appropriate, their mark'. The lists of approved bodies notified to the Commission within the deadlines will be published in the 'C' series of the Official Journal of the European Communities.

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Technical information
 

Project start date

2000

Project completion date

2003

Project status

Development and implementation

IDA budget

2000          €   70,000
2001-2002 
350,000

Estimated maintenance costs

60,000/year

Responsible service

DG Agriculture

Project coordinator

Pirjo Pennanen (functional aspects) Christian Vanden Plas (technical aspects)

Contact

idabc@ec.europa.eu

Countries involved

All EU Member States

Public websites

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/ofis_public/index.cfm http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/qual/organic/index_en.htm (information on organic farming policy)

Background documents

Council Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91 of 24 June 1991 on organic production of agricultural products and indications referring thereto on agricultural products and foodstuffs and the Organic farming Guide to Community rules
European Hearing on Organic Food and Farming - Towards a European Action Plan, 22 January 2004, Brussels


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Documentation:


Global implementation plan
 OFIS GIP - June 2001 (PDF)
EnglishPDF[34 Kb]

 


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