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Action plan for organic food and farming
This action plan is a product of the CAP reform launched in 2003 and represents a new stage in the promotion of organic farming in Europe. The Commission has adopted a pragmatic approach involving three groups of measures, the first step being to examine how current policies should be implemented or adjusted.
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 10 June 2004 - "European Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming" [COM(2004) 415 - Not published in the Official Journal]
Organic farming is a valuable tool for promoting the environmentally friendly production of high-quality products. Stressing the advantages for the environment, rural development and animal welfare, the Commission sets out its general guidelines on organic farming.
The Commission recognises the dual role played by organic farming in society. It represents a means of production for foodstuffs and has created a niche market for these kinds of food products. It is beneficial for the whole community and especially for the environment.
Developing the market by informing consumers
The Commission believes that the development of organic farming must be based firstly on the interplay of supply and demand. The emphasis must therefore be placed on the expectations of consumers, who need to be better informed about the principles, objectives and benefits of organic farming.
The Commission proposes launching an information and promotion campaign throughout the European Union to promote the Community logo, and other campaigns targeted on certain types of consumer. It also plans to set up an on-line database to allow comparison of Community standards with national and international standards.
In order to increase production capacity, fresh information is required and the collection of statistical data on the production of and the market for organic products must therefore be improved.
Making public support more effective
The Commission urges Member States to make full use of all the Community instruments and measures, such as national and regional action plans, available within their rural development programmes.
Given the need for new technologies with a view to developing the market for organic products, the Commission and the Member States must expand research in this field.
Improving and reinforcing Community standards
The Commission aims to preserve the integrity of organic farming by making Community rules more transparent and increasing harmonisation so as to reduce obstacles to trade caused by the existence of too many different standards.
For the same reason, the Commission proposes developing a multilateral concept of equivalency based on the Codex Alimentarius guidelines and increasing efforts to get non-member countries to subscribe. The Commission underlines that equivalence must take account of differences in climate and farming conditions in each country.
Under EU development policy, the Commission proposes supporting capacity-building in developing countries and facilitating trade in organic products from those countries. The Commission plans to establish new import arrangements under Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91, involving technical equivalency evaluations by specially designated bodies.
It also intends to improve the performance of those bodies and coordination between them and the inspection and enforcement authorities. It plans to develop a specific accreditation system for inspection bodies and publish an annual report from the Member States on their supervision. In addition, it proposes prohibiting the labelling of products containing GMOs as organic.
Finally, the Commission proposes asking the Council for a negotiating mandate to reinforce recognition by third countries of EU organic farming standards and inspection systems.
The action plan demonstrates the EU's willingness to support sustainable development and forms part of the CAP reform launched in 2003.
The 2001 Göteborg European Council under the Swedish Presidency wanted a strategic vision of policy in the field of organic food and agriculture and called on the Commission to propose an action plan to meet this objective.
The mi-term reform of the common agricultural policy in 2003 subsequently provided a framework for developing organic agriculture and a range of instruments for implementing this strategy, promoting production methods that emphasise product quality and respect for the environment. By favouring soil protection, animal well-being, biodiversity, plant nutrients and water protection (the latter via reduced use of pesticides), organic agriculture plays an important role in achieving the CAP objectives of improving the sustainability of agriculture and the environment.
Further information can be found on the website of the European Commission Directorate-General for Agriculture.