This note seeks to provide an initial analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the European Commission’s Impact Assessment (IA) accompanying the above proposal which was adopted on 24 March 2014.
The first EU legislation on organic farming was adopted in 19911 and substantially revised in 20072. Amongst other things, this revision introduced the possibility of exceptions, under the responsibilities of Member States, to the organic production rules; linked the organic control system to the official food and feed controls system; made the accreditation of private control bodies obligatory, and restructured the import regime. When the 2007 Regulation was adopted, a number of issues were identified on which the Commission was required to submit a report to Parliament and Council after having reviewed the experience gained. This report was adopted in May 2012. The Council adopted its conclusions on the report in May 2013, calling for a review of the current legal framework with a view to developing the organic farming sector at an ambitious level and aiming at further clarification and simplification. The review is also an opportunity to align the current Commission implementing powers with the delegated and implementing powers introduced by the Lisbon Treaty. A previous proposal on this aspect failed to find agreement between Parliament and Council and was withdrawn.
The general problem identified is that the overall objective of the current EU political and legislative framework to ensure the sustainable development of organic production, is not being met. Over the last ten years, the organic market has been characterised by dynamic development driven by strong growth in demand. The global market for organic food expanded fourfold between 1999 and 2011, yet the area under organic production in the EU only doubled in the decade 2000-2010. According to the IA, neither internal supply, nor the legislative framework, has kept up with this market expansion, resulting in lost opportunities for EU producers. Moreover, the IA considers that the continued growth of the organic market might itself be at threat from possible erosion of consumer confidence, due to the watering down of some EU organic production rules, with excessive use of exceptions, and cases of fraud in the control system and the import regime. In addition, the development of private schemes has led to confusion, with a multiplication of logos competing with the EU organic logo. The entire regulatory framework is extremely complex and difficult to understand for operators, producers, consumers and public authorities, and will become more so with the foreseen implementation of a compliance regime for control bodies in non-recognised third countries from 2014. There is significant administrative burden linked notably to the management of the exceptions by national administrations and to the control of business operators.