Can you tell us about IFOAM EU in a few words?
IFOAM EU is the European umbrella organisation for organic food and farming, fighting for the adoption of ecologically, socially and economically sound systems based on the principles of organic agriculture – health, ecology, fairness and care. We represent more than 190 member organisations in the EU-28, EU accession countries and EFTA. Our member organisations span the entire organic food chain and beyond: from farmers and processors organisations, retailers, certifiers, consultants, traders and researchers to environmental and consumer advocacy bodies.
In your opinion, what are the major challenges currently facing organic processors?
IFOAM EU encourages organic processors and farmers to voice their ideas and concerns. We make sure that they have the space to form positions on issues relevant to their unique needs, by setting up interest groups for organic processors and traders (IGOP) (2006), farmers (2012) and specialised retailers (2018). Through these forums it is clear that organic processors face many challenges, particularly with EU legislation and more recently with the EU organic regulation.
In 2014 the European Commission proposed a new organic regulation containing several elements with the potential to have a serious effect on organic processors, including the obligation for retailers to be certified, even those who only sell pre-packaged foods. There was a long negotiation process throughout which IFOAM EU did its best to defend the interest of the organic sector and succeeded in deleting the most problematic parts, such as this obligation for retailers. The new EU organic regulation was eventually published on 14 June 2018 and will come into effect on 1 January 2021.
Even if not a revolution, the new organic regulation will bring some changes which will affect consumers, organic farmers, certifiers, as well as organic processors. For instance, in the new regulation, the use of natural flavours will be restricted. Even if interpretations differ, it seems that for example only “natural lemon flavouring” will be allowed, which means that the flavouring is at least 95% obtained from lemon. Rules for obtaining organic flavours will also be detailed.
Additionally, a restricted list for cleaning and disinfection products for use in processing will be established. Today such a restricted list does not exist.
Last year we mentioned the growing concern around the proposed changes to import regimes, that would introduce a two-tier system which would complicate an existing harmonised structure. The new regulation draws out two systems to import organic products from outside the EU:
A system based on trade agreements: all third countries that are currently recognised as equivalent will have to renegotiate the terms for trade agreements under the new EU procedure. Under the current system, thirteen third countries are recognised: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, India, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Tunisia, the United States of America and New Zealand;
A system based on certifiers: where there is not a trade agreement, the Commission will establish a list of recognised control bodies / authorities that will be authorised to perform controls and certification in third countries. The EU regulation will be implemented identically within the EU and outside the EU. Some flexibility will be allowed for the use of plant protection products and / or fertilisers traditionally used in third countries.
IFOAM EU has been taking part in Natexpo since 2013. How significant is the show for you and the professionals that you represent?
Natexpo is the specialist in trade shows and exhibitions dealing in wellness, organic products, health, natural goods and sustainable development – it has been an honour for IFOAM EU to be present since 2013.
France is a key player within the organic sector and Natexpo provides French and other organic companies with a meeting place, a platform for exchange and development for this unique market. This space allows for IFOAM EU to exchange knowledge and get the opportunity to listen to the needs of French companies. As the European umbrella organisation for organics in Europe, it is important for us to understand the hot topics of the French market and to share information about EU regulatory and policy developments that affect their businesses.
How will IFOAM EU be contributing to Natexpo 2018?
We are honoured to be a partner of the new Natexpo gathering at Lyon Eurexpo – located at the heart of a major French region for the organic sector. Our stand will provide attendees with an overview of recent developments at the European level and an insight into who is protecting their interests at EU level. Our session will focus on the changes introduced by the EU new organic regulation, and will provide a glimpse of the projects IFOAM EU contributes to for the development of the organic sector, such as organic plant breeding or plant protection products.
Eduardo Cuoco, IFOAM EU Director