Posted by: Mahdi Ebrahimi | October 29, 2007

European Organic Congress in Brussels

 

The IFOAM EU Group, in cooperation with partner organisations, is organising a European Organic Congress on 4 – 5 December 2007 in Brussels. The timing of this event is key.

The EU Action Plan on organic food and farming needs sound evaluation and follow up: Some actions have been started, others are completed. However, in certain areas, such as rural development, organic research and GMO contamination, the plan has had little or no impact.
  • At the same time, the Commission has initiated its mid term review of the CAP, the so called Health Check, and the 2008/9 budget review is under way, together with discussion on post-2013. All these will influence the political framework of the Common Agricultural Policy and specifically the role of organic farming.
  • Additionally, future policy has to take into account current environmental challenges such as mitigating climate change and preventing the loss of biodiversity.
Our Congress aims at:
1) assessing the current situation of EU organic production and associated legislation;
2) identifying the contribution of organic production to various EU political objectives; and
3) defining clear recommendations that will permit a dynamic development of organic food and farming sector for the years to come.
Introduction
In recent years, organic production has received increasing attention in the public debate about agriculture. Several food scandals, including the BSE crisis, urged policy makers to recognise the potential of organic food and farming – it provides a solution to many of the problems that agriculture is facing today. As a consequence, most EU member states have set up action plans or special programmes to boost its development. The European Commission itself launched an EU organic action plan in June 2004. Organic production has become an important pillar within the CAP and rural development programmes.
Political Framework
It is clear that the political environment for agriculture has changed, and is continuing to change. This presents both opportunities and challenges for the organic sector.
  • The Lisbon Strategy to boost growth, jobs and innvation is the main overarching EU strategy for all policy areas (charged also to take account of sustainability by the Göteborg Strategy).
  • The EU budget for the new financial period (2007-2013) has decreased, meaning less money available for rural development programmes. This is one of the most important tools to balance the reduced incentives that organic production receives from other agriculture funding instruments.
  • The CAP Health Check and the budget review in 2008/2009 will further influence the political framework of agricultural policy.
  • The future of the first pillar of the CAP is uncertain after 2013.
  • Citizens, and therefore taxpayers, are only prepared to accept subsidies to agriculture if they provide extra public benefits.
  • Finally, EU agriculture has to conform with WTO agreements.
On the other hand, environmental issues are increasingly important on the political agenda:
  • political leaders such as Tony Blair and Angela Merkel have announced that mitigating climate change is one of the biggest challenges humans face;
  • EU governments have committed their efforts to halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010;
  • the European Commission has launched different environmental initiatives such as the biodiversity communication, the soil directive and the pesticide strategy; and
  • furthermore the issue of GMOs in European agriculture remains a controversial issue, and poses a direct threat to organic production.
Meanwhile, organic farming faces its own challenges, including:
  • member states support organic farming to different degrees and in different ways, leading to inequalities and unfair competition;
  • organic farming cannot compete fairly with conventional farming because the latter externalises its costs and generally receives more subsidies;
  • the (still) small scale of organic farming means lack of some organic inputs, over-reliance on conventional agriculture, poorly developed infrastructure, and systems that are less balanced than they should be;
  • the level of research is inadequate and the provision of advice is patchy;
  • despite the organic regulation, standards and certification vary significantly in different countries, especially third countries; and
  • commercial pressures and increasing scale are creating tensions with organic purity and integrity.

source: www.organic-congress-ifoameu.org

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