Preliminary agreement finally reached on new rules for organic production

After three years of negotiations, on 28 June 2017 the Maltese presidency and the European Parliament reached a preliminary agreement on the review of the existing EU rules on organic production and labelling of organic products.

The new rules aim at harmonising and simplifying the production rules and a number of past exceptions and derogations will be phased out, subject to relevant Commission reports. The main points of the preliminary agreement establish as follows:

  • Scope: enlarged to cover a wider list of products (e.g. salt, cork, beeswax, maté, vine leaves, palm hearts) and additional production rules (e.g. deer, rabbits and poultry);
  • Controls: the new regulation introduces checks on retailers and a risk-based approach to controls;
  • Imports: the 'compliance system' will become the rule in the recognition of the private control bodies in third countries. Thus, these bodies will have to comply with EU production and control rules when deciding whether a product to be exported to the EU market is organic or not;
  • Group certification: introduction of a new system of group certification that should make it easier for small farmers to switch to organic farming by reducing inspection and certification costs, as well as the related administrative burden;
  • Pesticides: to take account of the different situations of different MS, the new regulation builds flexibility regarding measures to be taken in the presence of non-authorised substances. Those countries already having in place national rules establishing thresholds for non-authorised substances will be able to maintain them. Four years after the entry into force of the new rules, the EC should assess national rules and practices in the field and could also table a legislative proposal for further harmonization.

Next steps: the agreement still needs to be approved by the Council's Special Committee on Agriculture (SCA). After the formal endorsement by the Council, it will be submitted to the European Parliament for a vote at first reading and to the Council for final adoption.

The new regulation will apply from 1 July 2020.