European experts from 21 countries joined together in Plovidiv, Bulgaria, to discuss the future of organic food and farming in the context of the CAP Health check, the new organic regulation and other relevant issues. In a pre-press conference on April 2, the Bulgarian deputy minister of agriculture Dimiter Peychev and Marco Schlüter, director of the IFOAM EU Group, outlined that “organic production provides great opportunities for Bulgarian agriculture and will be its future”.
The seminar discussed the hot news of the need to postpone introduction of the proposed new mandatory EU ‘bio’ logo, part of the new organic regulation due to come into force on 1st January 2009. It includes the requirement for an EU logo to be on the labels of all packaged organic foods. A new logo was approved in principle in January 2008 but has just been withdrawn due to similarities with an existing trademark. As a result, the Commission will ask the Council to postpone its mandatory introduction until 1st January 2010 to give time for a new logo to be commissioned.
“This is a mess”, said Francis Blake, president of the IFOAM EU Group, “and it’s going to cause serious problems. It is really not possible to postpone only this part of the new regulation – other parts have implications for labelling that mean many products will have to change their labels twice. This is absolutely not acceptable for the market.
“The best option to keep the regulation on track is to withdraw the requirement for a mandatory logo, which anyway has always been controversial. Then the new regulation can start next January on schedule.”
The other major issue at the seminar was the CAP health check, an opportunity to make important changes to European Agriculture to become more sustainable. The European Commission will present first draft legislation detailing how to improve the existing system in mid May. Moving the single farm payments from historical basis (which favours previously intensive production) to regional basis and higher modulation (shifting money from direct payments to rural development) were very controversial key elements discussed in the last month.
“Our conclusion is that we call on the European Commission to enforce higher mandatory modulation and to change the single farm payments so that they do not disadvantage systems that deliver high merits for society”, continued Francis Blake. “It is critical that the CAP supports farming systems that provide public goods, such as organic farming”. The seminar was organised by the IFOAM EU Group and Agrolink, one of the leading organic farming organisations in Bulgaria, and co-financed by the European Commission.