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Mariann Fischer Boel
Member of the European Commission - Responsible for Agriculture and Rural Development
Organic food and farming: building fresh success on a stronger legal foundation
Nürnberg, 19 February 2009
[Ladies and gentlemen],
It's obvious that I should begin by saying "Happy birthday!"
Happy birthday to Biofach, which of course is now celebrating its 20th year.
That's 20 years of bringing together the best organic products and the brightest ideas from around the world, in a forum which contributes so much to the spirit of enthusiasm and creativity in the organic sector.
The organic sector itself is older than 20 but it certainly still shows the energy and enthusiasm of youth.
These qualities need the support of good legislation. And of course, updating and improving the legislation for organic food and farming in the European Union has been an important project over the last few years.
Now, after a lot of perspiration, we've got most of the hard work done.
At one point in 2007, I said that in legal terms we had built a "solid foundation" – by agreeing the new Council Regulation.
Well, now that we've also agreed most of the implementing rules, we have not only a foundation, but also walls and a roof – a house, in other words!
This is the result of a lot of very professional work, and I think we now have a good, firm structure – one that will keep out the wind and rain!
Of course, there's still some work to be done inside the house – dividing up the space and adding certain features.
In particular, we aim to get consensus on implementing rules for organic wine and aquaculture by the end of 2009.
Of course the organic sector is facing a number of challenges.
For a start, I'm all too aware that some European organic farmers have been feeling the pressure as agricultural prices have gone up and down like a rollercoaster.
These difficulties have certainly not been unique to the organic sector. And to all farmers I've been saying: now is not the time for knee-jerk policy reactions.
And for the organic sector in particular, we need to follow through with the various initiatives which we've launched under the Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming.
Is it time for a new Action Plan? I still don't think so. I don't believe a new plan would be of much value until we know clearly what the impact of the current plan has been.
On the other hand, I'm open to the idea of a "mid-term evaluation" of the current plan. We should keep the plan's substance. But if there's clear evidence that we need to change course slightly – why not?
One initiative that we've followed up from the Action Plan has of course been our promotion campaign.
It's too early to judge the impact of this. But I'm a big fan in any case. It's essential to get clear messages across to consumers and the public about what organic food and farming can do for them. The Commission's website "toolbox" is a valuable asset from this point of view.
One of the messages that we need to get across to consumers is that they can rely on products which claim to be "organic" and which come from other countries in the European Union (and from outside it).
This is why a new European organic logo will be important; and this is why we need a logo which is really up to the job.
As many of you know, designing a new logo is a task which we've opened up to all that creative talent out there in our art and design schools – through a competition which will start in a few weeks.
Please get involved! I'm convinced that there are many supporters of the organic movement amongst young people in design schools. In this respect, you can help me by passing the message along and by motivating students to join in with the competition.
And by the end of the year, it will be possible for everybody to vote for their favourite design on the internet. There again, I count on your support to tell farmers and friends of the organic movement to vote.
Then, I sincerely believe, we'll end up with a logo that really reaches out and grabs the attention of whoever sees it. That's what we need!
Let me come back to challenges faced by organic farming. Another of these is, of course, climate change.
Let's keep using organic techniques as ammunition against the problem of climate change. Because let's be clear: if we want to hit our greenhouse gas targets, we need all the ammunition we can get. Again research and development will be of huge importance.
Overall, as I've said, the sector is facing challenges; but it's also making progress on many fronts.
Know-how is advancing, long-term demand is growing, and in terms of European legislation, the house is essentially built – a house in which the sector can live, work and prosper.
So once again: happy birthday to Biofach, and may the next 20 years be as successful as the first 20!