The International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM) has raised concerns over EC proposals for “a complete overhaul of the EU organic regulation” (see Agritrade article ‘ EC tables new regulation on the organic sector’, 11 May 2014).
In a press release, IFOAM notes that, with regard to imports, “the proposal foresees [replacing] the approach of equivalence” – which requires imports to “comply with equally reliable organic standards” – with “requirements of absolute compliance with all details of the EU regulation”. IFOAM notes that “this means that producers in many developing countries with completely different meteorological, environmental and structural conditions would have to comply with the rules made for European conditions and their ability to export to the EU will significantly decrease.”
The new regulation, in IFOAM’s view, “would set back organic production in many developing countries, especially as the EU-28 represents the second biggest market for organic after the USA”. It would also lead to a decrease in imports, which “would exacerbate the gap between supply and demand of organic produce and products in Europe”. It would further deny European organic processors “access to imported organic ingredients”.
IFOAM considers that the move towards absolute compliance requirements is “a step backwards in the efforts to include developing country producers in value chains”, and suggests that the change “goes against the recommendations of the International Task Force and the spirit of the international Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade”.
Rather than moving over to absolute compliance requirements, IFOAM argues that “control bodies in the regions of the world with similar conditions should be encouraged to use a common regional standard for organic products exported to the EU. This would avoid application of different standards in same regions and reduce the burden on the EU Commission which would have to evaluate them.”
IFOAM notes on its website that in the EC’s new European Organic Action Plan and new organic legislative proposal of March 2014, the Commission had taken on board IFOAM’s concerns regarding:
- environmental performance requirements;
- scope for group certification;
- the need for clarifications on origin labelling and a range of other issues.
However, IFOAM is arguing that more improvements need to be made in order to avoid unnecessary bureaucratic burdens. It attaches considerable importance to strengthening member states’ implementation controls.
IFOAM has been actively promoting the development of Participatory Guarantee Schemes of organic certification in various regions of the ACP, mostly for the local market (see Agritrade article ‘ Report highlights expansion of organic production for local markets in t...’,13 June 2013), but with some links to overseas territories of EU member states (see Agritrade article ‘ Cooperation with certification agencies to be deepened to consolidate Pa...’, 16 November 2013). In the Pacific, any moves towards absolute compliance requirements could serve to undermine intra-regional trade in organic products to territories of EU member states in the Pacific. This may require special dispensation for organic trade between ACP members and overseas territories of EU member states, within mutually recognised schemes for organic certification.
In addition, the proposed move to absolute compliance requirements could increase the costs of serving EU organic markets for those ACP exporters which have shifted on a large scale to organic forms of production in response to processes of preference erosion (e.g. banana producers in the Dominican Republic). Indeed, concerns have already been expressed about the implications for organic imports of changes proposed under the EU new food and feed control regulation (see Agritrade article ‘ Concerns expressed over impact of revision of EU food and feed controls...’, 11 August 2013).