Industry congress hears EU organic meat producers back reform of European standards

By Monika Hanley, in Riga

- Last updated on GMT

It was said, at the congress, that import controls are currently bureaucratic
It was said, at the congress, that import controls are currently bureaucratic

Related tags: European union

European meat producers are still being treated unfairly by European Union (EU) organic food regulations, according to discussions on improving organic production at the 9th European Organic Congress in Riga, Latvia (10-12 June).

The Congress debated key future decisions that could shape the future of EU organic food production.

Michael Kuegler, board member of the European Forum of Rural Advisory Services, said that despite the positive nature of the debate, the system based on EU Regulation (EC) No. 834/2007 remains unfair for European meat producers: "For example, colourings used in sausage production; the regulation is unfair, as certain colours are allowed in the United States, but not here and yet we accept the imports,"​ Kuegler explained.

"Import controls are currently bureaucratic,"​ Kuegler added. "The certificates are equal, but China and the US have an agreement on imports, and they have different standards."

However, Krista Garkalne, spokeswoman of the Latvian Agricultural Organisation Cooperation Council, said, after the congress, she was hopeful for a stronger regulatory system in the future and predicted possible major growth in organic production once the new regulations were finalised.

"Regulations need to be improved for the laws on organic production. A control system, unauthorised presence of residues and other instruments need to be in the framework to promote and strengthen the confidence of consumers and ensure fair competition.

"Similarly, the framework should ensure that this applies not only to the meat sector, but are common to organic farming and integrated development,"​ said Garkalne.

She stressed that new EU rules should be designed to strengthen consumer confidence in organic production and organic food, noting that the demand for organic food is growing in Europe, as well as the rest of the world.

German Green MEP Martin Häusling, speaking on the needs of the organic sector, also spoke of the idea of unification and equal standards. "I have called for a new agency for organic regulation to have better control, and better regulation for imports, as now there are over 60 standards,"​ he told the congress.

Industry representatives attending the congress debated how EU regulatory proposals on animal health are expected to be adopted by the end of 2015.

The current Latvian presidency of the EU, which controls and chairs the business of the EU Council of Ministers, is playing a key role, reflected by the location of this year’s congress, in the Latvian capital.

One issue under discussion were proposals for the mandatory labelling of country of origin for fresh and frozen meat from horses, rabbits, reindeer and deer, from farmed and wild game, that were also debated at yesterday’s meeting of the EU Council of Ministers for agriculture, which approved a ‘general approach’ on the Commission proposal for new organic regulation. This is the first step towards a formal agreement on the proposals.

The deal has been welcomed by the industry: "Today’s decision was an important step for organic farmers and consumers, as it strengthened the process based approach to organic farming. Ministers decided not to mislead consumers with false promises by making organic producers only accountable for what is under their direct control,"​ said Jan Plagge, EU board member for the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM).

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