EU negotiators have decided to halt changes to existing organic crop legislation until January 2017, as parties are divided on key issues, AgraFacts.com has reported.
The EU executive has tabled the proposal, which would create a standardised environment for European organic producers and regulate the handling of contaminated imports from countries outside the EU, among other actions.
The three parties differ on such issues as regulations under which organic products might be stripped of certification when unauthorised pesticides are used. For its part, the European Commission wants automatic decertification in the case of multiple pesticide residues.
Legislation surrounding the production of soil-bound products in greenhouses and the eventual elimination of exemptions for the use of non-organic seeds and other items are also bones of contention.
Member states rejected the plan presented at the Special Committee on Agriculture on 5 December. Many countries, such as the UK and the Netherlands, repeatedly balked at the commission's initial proposal for a decertification threshold, citing concerns that it would be unfair to punish organic farmers who may have been contaminated by neighbouring traditional farm operations.
The EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogan, said that he wouldn't withdraw the proposal, and that his goal was to "maintain the integrity of organic farmers and consumers" and preserve the credibility of the organic industry. He called for all parties to ponder the issue over the Christmas break.
'The Commission had to respond to these concerns […] as very valuable consumers are paying a premium price for these products," Hogan said. He was adamant that products containing residues from two or more pesticides should not be labelled organic.
Austrian minister Andrä Rupprechter advocated the withdrawal of the proposal, worried that crossing "red lines" such as threshold values for non-authorised substances (e.g. plant protection products) might hurt consumer confidence and the sector's image.
Meetings look likely to resume in January, with formal discussions possible at the end of January or early February.
Eurostat announced in October that organic farmland now makes up approximately 6.2% of all European agricultural land. Since 2010, the land cultivated specifically for organic food has increased by two million hectares, reaching 11 million hectares in 2015.
© 2016 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Karen Henderson. To subscribe to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine, click here.