New legislation from 2022
New organic legislation is applicable from 1 January 2022, following the postponement of its implementation for a year. The rules reflect the changing nature of this rapidly growing sector. The new regulation is designed to ensure fair competition for farmers whilst preventing fraud and maintaining consumer trust through the following:
- production rules are simplified through the phasing out of a number of exceptions and opt outs;
- the control system is strengthened thanks to tighter precautionary measures and robust checks along the entire supply chain;
- producers in third countries will have to comply with the same set of rules as those producing in the EU;
- organic rules cover a wider list of products (e.g. salts, cork, beeswax, wool, etc) and have additional production rules (e.g. deer, rabbits and poultry);
- certification will be easier for small farmers thanks to a new system of group certification;
- there will be a more uniform approach to reducing the risk of accidental contamination from pesticides.
The consultation process
When the EU writes new legislation, it consults both stakeholders and the general public to assess their views about the proposal.
The new legislation on organics was no exception and between 2012 and 2013 the European Commission held a wide ranging consultation. This process informed the Commission's decision making when proposing the new legislation.
Timeline of consultation
- March 2014
The Commission proposed legislation based on their own expertise, the impact assessment and the results of the consultation process.
- November 2013
Advisory Group on Organic Farming second meeting following up on the work carried out during June 2013.
- June 2013
Advisory Group on Organic Farming meeting. The advisory group on organic farming (now known as the CDG) met with its usual members to continue their work on the legislative proposal.
- April 2013
Enlarged Advisory Group on Organic Farming second meeting. The advisory group met for a second time to build upon the work done in previous expert groups and through the public consultation.
- January – April 2013
Public consultation. The Commission received 44,846 replies to its pre-set questionnaire and 1,450 free contributions were sent by e-mail from citizens and various stakeholders.
- December 2012
The Enlarged Advisory Group on Organic Farming (now known as the civil dialogue group or CDG) met to discuss the new legislation. They were accompanied by a range of other stakeholders.
- November 2012
Expert hearing on international trade in organic products and global issues. Representatives of organisation such as producer groups and third party control bodies made presentations.
- October 2012
Expert hearing on the European Union's organic production – controls and enforcement. Interested parties such as border control offices and producer organisations made presentations.
- September 2012
Expert hearing on the EU organic market – internal market and standards. Stakeholders (for example, consumer organisations or animal welfare NGOs) made presentations to the Commission.
Action plan for organic production in the EU
In March 2021, the Commission launched an organic action plan for the EU. The action plan sets out to achieve the European Green Deal target of 25% of agricultural land under organic farming by 2030.
The plan is comprised of 23 actions divided across three axes.
- Axis 1: stimulate demand and ensure consumer trust;
- Axis 2: stimulate conversion and reinforce the entire value chain;
- Axis 3: organics leading by example: improve the contribution of organic farming to environmental sustainability.
Research and innovation in organic farming
Research and innovation feature highly on the Commission’s agenda and agriculture is no exception.
Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe
The EU funds various research projects under the Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe legislation. Aimed at driving growth and creating jobs, the multiannual work programmes are prepared by the Commission with stakeholder consultation and combine private investment with EU funding to finance research, which will have tangible benefits.
The Horizon 2020 programme for agriculture was particularly focused on providing increased production efficiency whilst preventing damage to the natural environment. Several of these projects directly concern organic production and are still ongoing.
The European innovation partnership for agricultural productivity and sustainability (EIP-AGRI) connects farmers and researchers in order to speed-up innovation. EIP-AGRI has a focus group which concentrates on new approaches to organic farming. The group worked on how to optimise arable yields; outlining some best practices in its final report.
In addition, the EU has set up the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) to boost innovation. The EIT-Food focusses on entrepreneurship and innovation in the food sector.