EU organic regulation (Organised by Soil Association)


  1. improving the evidence base that Defra can use to reject or propose amendments to the proposal and
  2. managing and supporting change and transition through better regulation (drafting of the text) and better support.

Chris Atkinson (Soil Association): Chair

Session summary

In the first talk, Christopher Stopes stressed the importance of communicating the issues around the new EU Regulation. Changes are proposed that potentially threaten the organic sector and their implications are not well enough evaluated and communicated; for this, all strands of sustainability need to be considered, including social implications. He argues that the proposed text is legally very weak and calls for substantial changes. Key issues are:

  1. increased costs for an increased loss of integrity
  2. increased contamination with pesticide residues, legal and reliability issues adding to the costs for farmers
  3. a larger negative impact on small organic farms, particularly in the global south but also in the UK (compliance approach) and
  4. delegated acts (leave for someone else to solve) balance of responsibilities between the commission and Member States.

He suggested a better implementation of the existing rules and the development of new tools (e.g. social issues) is needed.

His talk was followed by a presentation of Nick Turner from Defra, describing the UK point of view, reaction and action points with regards to the proposed changes to the EU Regulation.

The aim of the following discussion was to identify stakeholder opinions on a number of issues to be addressed by Defra.

Key conclusions

The discussion that followed the presentations brought out the following points:

  • Could we make agriculture entirely subsidy free? Seen as a possible trend we could be moving towards to, however, not in the foreseeable future.
  • Changes to the Organic EU Regulation are proposed that potentially threaten the organic sector, and their implications are not well enough evaluated and communicated.
  • A better implementation of the existing rules and the development of new tools (e.g. social issues) is needed
  • Difficulties of the total abolishment of derogations were pointed out, mentioning welfare issues and specific requirements in different countries.
  • Good progress had been made with the current regulation with regards to seed derogations. e.g. for grass/glover mixtures the development was very positive over the past years, but 100% organic would never be possible. Now the market should be driven forward with those parties who are willing to do something and invest in systems ensuring that as many organic seeds are produced as possible.
  • Group certification in the UK should stay on a voluntary basis, and be informed by nations who have had positive experience with its implementation in the past.

Action points

  • Increased, active and critical communication of implications of changes to the Regulation
  • Detailed assessment on implications in the UK
  • Include social issues in the assessment

Individual speaker presentations and abstracts

Christopher Stopes (IFOAM EU Group): New regulation – threat or opportunity? What’s happening in Europe (No powerpoint presentation).

The organic regulation proposed by the European Commission in March 2014 has potentially far-reaching implications for organic food and farming in the UK and throughout Europe. The aim of the Commission was to enable the sustainable growth of the organic sector throughout Europe, in line with our principles. In fact, unless substantially changed, it threatens the existence of the organic sector. The proposal relied on a weak and incomplete impact assessment that failed to properly consider the impact of the far-reaching changes proposed and a fundamentally flawed public consultation. The IFOAM EU Group has consistently argued for no wholesale revision, rather urging better implementation and progressive development of the existing regulation. Working at a European level with the Commission, the EU Council and Member States and with the European Parliament – all now involved in the co-decision process – it is essential that we reduce the threats, which include: increased costs, reduced supply and integrity of organic food in Europe; Increased risk of pesticide contamination of organic food by introducing a less reliable control system; Bigger impact on small organic farms, especially those in the global south; EC able to change organic rules at will, without consultation or participation from citizens or Member States; Organic farming’s principles of environ-mental sustainability, quality and health undermined. Many member states are critical of the Commission’s proposals. The European Parliament and the European Council are considering and commenting on the text and unless it is thrown out completely (which is unlikely), we have to hope for substantial changes to allow the organic opportunity to be realised.

Nicolas Turner (Defra): UK position on the new EU organic regulation – an update on negotiations (90kb pdf file)

Nick will outline the background to the Commission’s proposal for a new regulation on organic production and labelling of organic products including the overarching rationale behind it and what it is seeking to achieve. He will summarise some of the key proposals, and what the industry views on them are, before setting out the overall UK position. He will then go on to outline how the negotiations have progressed in Council Working Parties and in particular draw out where things look like they might move in the right direction as well as the key sticking points. He will then outline the next steps in the process and identify areas where input from attendees would be helpful as negotiations continue.

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