Basic Ecological Regulation Under Criticism

In mid-June 2018 the revised Basic EU-Council Regulation on Organic Production and Labelling of Organic Products came into force. However, it is not binding until 2021 – the implemention regulations are scheduled to be published by mid-2020.

Important details on the EU-Council Regulation are still being worked on. The Association for Artisanal Dairy Processing (VHM), for example, is calling for an amendment to Annex VIII of the EU Organic Regulation because even the latest draft version of the regulation does not permit the use of vegetable carbon (E153) for all cheeses, although this has been known for centuries and is used throughout Europe for all types of milk, whether unripened or matured. However, with only two exceptions, cow, sheep and buffalo milk cheeses with vegetable carbon still cannot be marketed as organic products.

Although the annex was being amended, goat’s milk cheese would now be excluded from the use of vegetable charcoal, which meant that cheeses that had been established for a long time would have to be withdrawn from the market. If organic production was a sustainable and future-oriented form of food production, organic cheese dairies should not be penalised with the withdrawal of the production permit. The VHM has therefore reiterated its call for all cheeses to be included in the positive list.

New law must secure animal husbandry for organic farmers

The Association of the Organic Food Industry (BÖLW) is also dissatisfied after the legal acts containing the animal husbandry rules had gone through the public consultations. On the occasion of the conference on the Federal Government’s “Future Strategy for Organic Farming” (ZöL), BÖLW Chairman Dr. Felix Prinz zu Löwenstein called on Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner to safeguard the animal husbandry practised by organic farmers in the new organic legislation. This was innovative and appropriate to the respective species, with its emphasis on keeping pigs and cattle outdoors and on multi-climate zone stables for poultry. However, the proposals for the new European Organic Regulation currently being negotiated in Brussels would mean that organic farmers would have to reduce their pig, poultry and cattle stocks.

For example, the legislative plans provide for an increase in the number of sow-runs in pig farms, but only allow for a transitional period of five years for conversion. This period was far too short, especially for pig farmers who, trusting in the current regulation, had only recently invested in new stables.

Furthermore, many pig and cattle stables would have to be converted, because the sum regulation, according to which a smaller stable can be compensated by a larger outdoor area in order to allow for free-range management, was no longer accepted as an interpretation. There would be no transitional period for the necessary conversions.

In poultry farming, the cold coulter space should no longer be creditable to the housing area. The consequence of this would be that organic poultry farmers would keep 25 to 30 % fewer animals in the future.

Negative instead of positive list for detergents and disinfectants

Finally, according to the BÖLW, organic food producers will also be affected when the current proposals come into force: The EU Commission was working on a “positive list” for cleaning and disinfecting agents in organic processing, which in its first attempt would include over 1,400 active substances currently used by organic companies in the EU. However, these could not be tested individually before binding inclusion. Instead, the BÖLW is in favour of a “negative list” in which all active substances that are not permitted would be included.