New legislation from 2021
From the 1 January 2021, there will be an overhaul of the current organics regulations. The rules will reflect the changing nature of this rapidly growing sector. The new regulation is designed to ensure fair competition for farmers whilst preventing fraud and maintaining consumer trust through the following
- production rules will be simplified through the phasing out of a number of exceptions and opt outs
- the control system will be strengthened thanks to tighter precautionary measures and robust checks along the entire supply chain
- producers in third countries will have to comply with the same set of rules as those producing in the EU
- organic rules will cover a wider list of products (e.g. salt, cork, beeswax, maté, vine leaves, palm hearts) and will have additional production rules (e.g. deer, rabbits and poultry)
- certification will be easier for small farmers thanks to a new system of group certification
- there will be a more uniform approach to reducing the risk of accidental contamination from pesticides
- exemptions for production in demarcated beds in greenhouses will be phased out
The consultation process
When the EU writes new legislation, it consults both stakeholders and the general public to assess their views about the proposal.
The new legislation on organics was no exception and between 2012 and 2013 the Commission held a wide ranging consultation. This process informed the European Commission's decision making when proposing the new legislation.
Timeline of consultation
- Sep 2012
Expert hearing on the EU organic market – Internal market and standards. Stakeholders (for example, consumer organisations or animal welfare NGOs) made presentations to the Commission.
- Oct 2012
Expert hearing on the European Union's organic production – controls and enforcement. Interested parties such as border control offices and producer organisations made presentations.
- Nov 2012
Expert hearing on International trade in organic products and global issues. Representatives of organisation such as producer groups and third party control bodies made presentations.
- Dec 2012
The Enlarged Advisory Group on Organic Farming (now known as the civil dialogue group or CDG) met to discuss the new legislation. They were accompanied by a range of other stakeholders.
- Jan - Apr 2013
Public consultation. The Commission received 44,846 replies to its pre-set questionnaire and 1,450 free contributions were sent by e-mail from citizens and various stakeholders.
- Apr 2013
Enlarged Advisory Group on Organic Farming second meeting. The advisory group met for a second time to build upon the work done in previous expert groups and through the public consultation.
- Jun 2013
Advisory Group on Organic Farming meeting. The advisory group on organic farming (now known as the CDG) met with its usual members to continue their work on the legislative proposal.
- Nov 2013
Advisory Group on Organic Farming second meeting following up on the work carried out during June 2013.
- Mar 2014
The Commission proposed legislation based on their own expertise, the impact assessment and the results of the consultation process.
The EU action plan for the future of organics
The European Action Plan on organics is intended to help EU farmers, distributers and retailers adapt to the changes included in the new regulations. It also made a number of specific recommendations that are intended to make EU organics policy more effective.
Examples of recommendations made by the action plan include
- regular consumer surveys to evaluate the recognisability of the EU organics logo
- greater help for EU countries on how to combat fraud in organics and prevent the improper use of the organic logo
- further cooperation with third countries to try to increase the opportunities for EU importers and exporters of organic food
- development of an electronic certification system for import
- encourage use of organic food e.g. in schools through EU green public procurement
Research and innovation in organic farming
Research and innovation feature highly on the European Commission’s agenda and agriculture is no exception.
The EU funds various research projects under the “Horizon 2020” legislation. Aimed at driving growth and creating jobs, the multiannual work programmes prepared by the Commission with stakeholders consultation combine private investment with EU funding to finance research, which will have tangible benefits.
The Horizon 2020 programme for agriculture is particularly focused on providing increased production efficiency whilst preventing damage to the natural environment. Several of these projects directly concern organic productions.
The European Innovation Partnership for agricultural productivity and sustainability (EIP-AGRI) connects farmers and researchers in order to speed-up innovation. EIP-AGRI has a focus group which concentrates on new approaches to organic farming. The group worked on how to optimise arable yields; outlining some best practices (see final report).
In addition, the EU has set up the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) to boost innovation. The EIT-Food focusses on entrepreneurship and innovation in the food sector.