Organic sector will be damaged by EU regulations, warns organic body

roposals to change European organic regulations could significantly damage the UK organic sector unless they are overhauled, a leading organic body has warned.

Certification body Organic Farmers & Growers says plans to overhaul the regulation system may force organic producers out of production, affecting supplies and reducing consumer choice.

Unless significant changes are made to the proposals, OF&G will not support them, it says.

Roger Kerr, the organisation’s chief executive, says that while it is critical that the organic regulation continues to develop to keep it up-to-date, any changes need to support the integrity of the sector and maintain consumer confidence.

The regulations also need to help the European organic farming sector satisfy the ever-growing demand for organic food.

Instead some of the proposals, which include new rules around accreditation and how organic food and feed is controlled, will hamper development of the industry.

“There are many aspects of the proposals which would cause massive damage to the organic sector, at a time when it should be growing in response to increasing demand for organic food,” Mr Kerr says.

“As the sector continues to develop the regulations need to be enhanced, but we don’t want to disadvantage organic producers and processors in the process.

“As they stand, these changes will cost jobs and livelihoods, which no one who cares about organics wants to see.”

The proposed regulations, which are being discussed by the European Parliament and the European Council before any expected implementation possibly in 2017, include rules which will require a farmer’s entire holding to be organic.
While it is not fully understood how the rule could apply in the UK, the rules could prevent a farmer from having organic and non-organic operations on the same farm.

This could have implications for farmers who want to convert their businesses over several years to manage risks, or force some businesses who produce both organic and non-organic food out of organic production entirely.

Another potential change which is concerning to OF&G is the need for all retailers who sell organic produce to become certified, rather than just those who handle unpacked organic goods, as is currently the case.

“By the time organic food hits the shelf it will have already gone through a rigorous certification process, so forcing all retailers to go through a further process is unnecessary, adds cost and adds nothing to the integrity of the product,” said Mr Kerr.

“Our concern is that the cost of certification may force some retailers to withdraw from the sector, removing important outlets for individual farms and food processors and reducing consumer choice.”

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