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Production and labelling of organic products

The harmonisation of the production, labelling and control of organic products ensures that there is fair competition between producers and strengthens the confidence of consumers, whose numbers in Europe are on the increase.

ACT

Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 of 28 June 2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91 [See amending act(s)].

SUMMARY

This Regulation lays down a new legal framework for organic products. It sets out the objectives and principles applicable to this type of production and illustrates the rules on production, labelling, controls and trade with third countries. This Regulation enters into application on 1 January 2009.

Scope

The framework established by this Regulation governs:

  • agricultural products (including aquaculture products), either processed or unprocessed and intended for human consumption;
  • animal feed;
  • vegetative propagating material and seed used for crops;
  • yeasts used as food or feed.

This Regulation contains the basic objectives and general principles for organic farming. The objectives focus on sustainable agriculture and production quality, which must meet consumers’ needs. The general principles concern, inter alia, specific production methods, the use of natural resources and stringent restrictions on synthetic chemical inputs. Furthermore, the Regulation lays down specific principles concerning farming, the processing of organic food and organic animal feed.

Production rules

According to the general rules for organic production, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are prohibited in all their forms. Rules concerning the labelling of food allow operators to ensure compliance with this prohibition. Treatment by ionising radiation is also prohibited.

Those wishing to operate both types of agricultural production (organic and non-organic) must ensure that animals and land for these two activities are separated.

Organic plant production must comply with certain rules concerning:

  • ground treatment, which must preserve life and the natural fertility of the ground;
  • the prevention of damage, which must be based on natural methods but which can make use of a limited number of plant protection products authorised by the Commission;
  • seed and plant propagation material, which must be produced using organic methods;
  • cleaning products, for which authorisation must be requested from the Commission.

Wild plants collected in some areas are also classified as organic products if they comply with certain conditions relating to their harvest and provenance. Seaweed may also be considered as an organic product as long as its area of production and harvest comply with certain conditions.

Organic livestock production must comply with certain rules concerning:

  • the animals’ origin - they must have been born and reared in organic holdings;
  • livestock husbandry practices, which, inter alia, relate to certain features of animal housing;
  • animal breeding methods, generally natural;
  • animal feed, which must be organic;
  • the prevention of disease;
  • cleaning and disinfection, involving the exclusive use of products authorised by the Commission.

Similar specific rules apply to aquaculture animals.

The Commission authorises the use of a limited number of products and substances in organic farming. These products may be for plant care, animal feed and the cleaning of buildings used for livestock and plant production. The Commission may also set certain limits and conditions for the application of these products.

Holdings which are entering into a new organic farming activity must comply with a conversion period. The rules laid down in this Regulation also govern this conversion period.

Organic processed feed must contain organic raw materials and may not be processed using chemical solvents. Processed food must contain mainly ingredients of agricultural origin. Other ingredients are permitted if authorisation has been requested from the Commission. Organic yeast must be produced from organic substrates and other authorised ingredients.

The Commission may make exceptions to provisions concerning objectives, production rules and labelling. These exceptions will be limited in time and apply to certain particular cases.

Labelling

Labelling, advertising or commercial documents may use terms such as “eco” and “bio” to describe an organic product, its ingredients, or raw materials.

The labelling of an organic product must be clearly visible on the packaging and contain a reference to the control body that certifies the product concerned.

From 1 July 2010, the use of the European Union logo on organic food products will be mandatory, as will an indication of the provenance of raw materials used in the product. This indication must be shown in the same field of vision as the Community logo.

Controls

Compliance with the provisions contained in this Regulation will be guaranteed by a system of controls based on Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 and precautionary and control measures established by the Commission. This system guarantees the traceability of food pursuant to Regulation (EC) No 178/2002.

An assessment of the risk of infringement will determine the type and frequency of controls. These will be organised by authorities appointed by Member States. Under certain conditions, these authorities may delegate control duties to accredited bodies, but they shall remain responsible for the supervision of the controls carried out and the granting of exemptions. Member States must notify the Commission regularly of the list of authorities and control bodies (list of bodies or authorities responsible for control published in 2007 ).

The authorities must also control the activities of each operator involved in the marketing of an organic product before it is placed on the market. Following this control, the operator receives documentary evidence which certifies that it complies with the provisions of this Regulation. If irregularities are noted, the authority shall ensure that the labelling of the products at issue do not contain any reference to organic production.

Trade with third countries

Products from third countries may also be placed on the Community market as organic products as long as they comply with the provisions of this Regulation and if they have been subject to control. This control may be carried out either by a body recognised by the European Community, or by an accredited control body.

Marketing and statistical surveillance

The marketing of an organic product may not be hindered in any way by any authority of a Member State other than the authority which has inspected the product.

The Commission carries out statistical surveillance activities based on the data provided by Member States. The Standing Committee on Organic Farming assists the Commission in defining policies for organic farming.

Context

This Regulation has been produced as part of a series of initiatives to foster organic farming. In the same framework, the Commission adopted an Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming in 2004.

The first legal framework for organic farming was laid down in 1991 with Regulation (EC) No 2092/91. Since its adoption, several amendments have been introduced into this Regulation, because organic farming has become more and more important in all Member States (annual growth for this sector is estimated at almost 25 % between 1993 and 1998 and around 30 % since 1998). A report on organic farming will be published by the end of 2011.

REFERENCES

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 834/2007

27.7.2007

-

OJ L 189 of 20.7.2007

Amending act(s) Entry into force Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Regulation (EC) No 967/2008

10.10.2008

-

OJ L 264 of 3.10.2008

RELATED ACTS

Rules for implementation

Commission Regulation (EC) No 889/2008 of 5 September 2008 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products with regard to organic production, labelling and control [Official Journal L 250 of 18.9.2008].

Last updated: 20.11.2008
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