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Regions Warn EU Plans Will Damage Flourishing Organic Sector

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Regions Warn EU Plans Will Damage Flourishing Organic Sector

Regions Warn EU Plans Will Damage Flourishing Organic Sector
December 10
10:04 2014

Local and regional leaders have warned that EU reform to the organic food sector will lead to a decline in what is currently a flourishing market. The Committee of the Regions – the EU’s assembly of local and regional authorities – agrees that the EU must revamp regulation and launch a new plan to support sustainable long-term growth of the organic sector, but argues that the European Commission’s proposals are simply counterproductive and require a greater degree of flexibility and proper investment.

The opinion led by Hester Maij and adopted by the Committee, was reacting to European Commission’s plans, which includes a change to EU law, that seek to cut red-tape, strengthen rules, promote competition and increase consumer confidence in EU organic produce. The Committee broadly welcomes the Commission´s aim to support sustainable growth of the organic sector which has thrived in recent years – in 2011 it was worth €19.7 billion and is forecast to grow annually by some 9%. The EU, Hester Maij argues, must show ambition and improve the health of future generations whilst protecting the environment. Nevertheless, the Committee warns that the radical proposals could instead lead to a decline of organic production in Europe.

The Committee argues that there needs to be a greater degree of flexibility to ensure the EU rules are adapted to the local climate and market. The integrity of entrepreneurs is the basis for sustainable growth and consumer confidence and more stringent rules will impact the sector.

Hester Maij, member of the Dutch Province of Overijssel Council, says: “We want to increase consumer confidence in organic products whilst ensuring fair market competition but this cannot be enforced by simply tightening EU rules”. Flexibility is needed, she argues, because organic production relies heavily on the type of farming and specific characteristics of the region.

The Commission’s plans to end the practice of mixed farming – which allows farmers to grow both conventional and organic on the same land – could also be detrimental the Committee warns. The Committee points out that one-quarter of all organic farms in Europe produce both conventional and organic products so, “a ban on mixed farming will lead to the disappearance of some organic producers.”

Furthermore, the Committee questions why the proposals do not include a dedicated budget and calls on the EU to set down concrete targets: “In its current form, the proposals are a missed opportunity as no specific budget has been earmarked to support the sector. Local and regional authorities are directly involved in the development of organic farming as co-financiers of rural development programme measures and the success of the reform needs to be strengthened and better financed.” To this end, the Committee also recommends launching an EU-wide platform that will promote and evaluate the success of the plans involving business, civil society, government and education and research.

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