Organic farmers welcome support for EU certification move

Small Irish organic farmers have welcomed Germany and France’s support for the EU’s proposed new group certification system.

A move that would see more small-holders and community gardeners entering organic, it is one of several positives in the European Commission’s proposed new organic regulations, says Gavin Lynch, PR and development officer with Organic Trust.

“Overall there are a lot of positives, but the devil will be in the detail,” said Mr Lynch. “A lot of regulations tend to be driven by the EU’s bigger organic countries. When you have scale, it is much easier to plan ahead in the organic sector.

“They have ready access to stocks of organic seeds, feeds and livestock. We don’t have the scale to make a lot of these things viable, so we are anxious that the new regulations should encourage farmers in smaller countries into organic without the burden of extra costs.”

German and French organic groups support group certification, but are resisting the Commission’s approach to applying obligatory tests on traders. The EU wants to prohibit organic farming and non-organic farming co-existing on the same land, and to impose sanctions when a non-authorised substance, such as a pesticide, is detected in organic products.

German agriculture minister Christian Schmidt said: “I would not like to see crushing bureaucratic restrictions imposed on organic farmers.”

Co-op de France argues that such sanctions would reduce conversions to organic. France’s Green Party MEPs argue that denying farmers the right to have organic and non-organic plots within one farm makes no sense, when most pesticide contamination is most usually windblown from a non-organic neighbouring farm.

French Green MEP José Bové said: “We must take into account how difficult it is to produce organic food, when conventional farmers nearby do not take measures to prevent polluting your plot. The costs of extra testing cannot be borne by organic farmers alone. It makes more sense to apply a ‘whoever pollutes pays’ principal when traces of pesticides are found.”

European Agriculture Commissioner Dacian Ciolos said he will take on board industry views. Organic has grown by 8% since 2008, and the EU wants the sector to continue to grow.

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