Of interest.

Changes in the regulation of organic farming

A new legislative regulation is approaching in the European Union, namely the Regulation No. 848/2018 of the European Parliament and of the Council on organic production and labelling of organic products and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No. 834/2007 (“Regulation“), which enters into force on 1 January 2021. Compared to the current regulation, the new Regulation extends the scope of the regulation of organic farming, both in terms of objectives and principles and the impact on new products and substances. It also changes the areas of regulation such as labelling of products and substances used in crop production, certification and control, including the competencies of control bodies. We will introduce this Regulation to you in more detail in the following paragraphs.

Overview of the main changes compared to the current legislation

The Regulation divides products that can be certified as organic into:

  1. alive and unprocessed agricultural products, including seeds and other plant reproductive material (animals, plants, seeds, mushrooms);
  2. processed agricultural products for use as food; and
  3. feed

The regulation also contains new categories of products that can be described as BIO, namely:

  • sea salt and other salts used in food and feed;
  • silkworm cocoons suitable for reeling;
  • natural gums and resins;
  • beeswax;
  • essential oils;
  • cork stoppers of natural cork, not agglomerated, and without any binding substances;
  • cotton, not carded or combed;
  • wool, not carded or combed;
  • raw hides and untreated skins; and
  • plant based traditional herbal preparations.

Foods categorized as BIO are products or raw materials of plant or animal origin that come from an organic farm, which has a valid certificate.

Foods containing or consisting of engineered nanomaterials are excluded from the scope of the Regulation. 

The goals of organic production are extended, for example, by:

  • a significant contribution to the non-toxic environment;
  • the support of short distribution channels and local production;
  • the promotion of conservation of rare or native endangered breeds;
  • the contribution to the expansion of the supply of plant genetic material adapted to the specific needs and objectives of organic farming;
  • the contribution to a high level of biological diversity, in particular through the use of a variety of plant genetic material, such as organic heterogeneous material and organic varieties suitable for organic production; whose
  • the support of the development of organic breeding activities.

The new principles also include strengthening of the concept of land-based production and contributing to a non-toxic environment.

In organic farming, it will now be possible to use some products and substances, in particular: safeners, synergists and co-formulants as components of plant protection products, and adjuvants that are to be mixed with plant protection products. The condition of use is that these products and substances must be authorized in accordance with EU Regulation No. 1107/2009.

Authorized products and substances used in plant protection products or as fertilizers, soil stabilizers or nutrients may include a reference stating that those products or substances have been authorized for use in organic production in accordance with the Regulation.

An innovation not only in organic production is the regulation of the so-called ecological heterogeneous material in setting rules for the marketing of plant reproductive material from ecological heterogeneous material. This provision was introduced due to the concerns of breeders and seed producers that organic material could be misused during marketing at the expense of conventional seeds. However, the rules are too general, and for this reason too, more detailed rules will be laid down by the Commission of the European Union in the form of implementing rules.

Certification

The regulation changes the product categories for certification purposes and increases their number from five to seven. The categories are now as follows:

  1. unprocessed plants and plant products, including seeds and other plant reproductive material;
  2. livestock and unprocessed livestock products;
  3. algae and unprocessed aquaculture products;
  4. processed agricultural products, including aquaculture products, for use as food;
  5. feed;
  6. wine;
  7. other products listed in Annex I to the Regulation or not falling into any of the previous categories.

A completely new concept in organic farming legislation is group certification. This innovation was introduced in order to reduce the financial and administrative burden on small farmers, which is associated with numerous inspections and extensive certification.

The Regulation sets out some basic conditions under which individual members may become members of a so-called group and the rules for such a group. Only those legal entities whose production activities take place in geographical proximity to each other can be members of this group.

Each group may only consist of members whose individual certification costs represent more than 2% of the turnover of individual members or the standard volume of organic production and whose annual turnover in relation to organic production does not exceed EUR 25,000 or whose standard volume of organic production does not exceed EUR 15,000 per year or each of which has holdings with a maximum area of (a) 5 hectares, (b) 0.5 hectares in the case of greenhouses, or (c) 15 hectares exclusively in the case of permanent grassland.

The Commission should, by means of implementing regulations, lay down detailed rules concerning in particular the responsibilities of the individual members of the group of operators, the criteria for determining the geographical proximity of the members of the group, the establishment and functioning of the internal control system and the composition and size of the group.

Controls

The regulation also brings significant changes in the organization and frequency of controls of organic production, as well as in the competencies of control bodies. Under the current legislation, it was mandatory to inspect organic production on site every year. However, the new Regulation allows entities to be inspected every other year under certain condition 

Such conditions are, in particular, trouble-free operation and low risk of activity. The period between two on-the-spot checks may not exceed 24 months.

In any case, all operators and groups need to carry out a so-called verification of compliance once a year, which is not an on-the-spot check.

Inspection bodies (private inspection subjects) may be empowered under the Regulation to grant exemptions in third countries for the use of plant reproductive material not obtained from organic production. Inspection bodies or bodies recognized for third countries may also authorize animals from conventional farming if sufficient organic animals are not available in that third country or allow the use of ingredients from conventional production in food production if there are insufficient organically produced ingredients.

The control system will be closely linked to the new general legislation on official food and feed control.

Selected new rules of plant and animal production

The new rules also apply to plant production, where greater emphasis will be placed on the consumption of livestock manure or organic ingredients – preferably composted and from organic farming. In the future, the inclusion of vetch crops in the sowing process will also be mandatory.

Many changes, but not entirely fundamental ones, also come to the rules for organic livestock production. These will affect, for example, the breeding of rabbits, cattle, deer and some pigs, sheep and goats. These species will be able to be newly certified as organic or BIO.

Processors will be limited in their ability to use natural flavourings and preparations. A detailed list will be drawn up reflecting any restrictions on the use of cleaning and disinfecting products for use in processing, when it is expected to be issued in the form of an implementing regulation. This area is not currently modified, nor is there a similar list yet.

Conclusion

The aim of the Regulation on organic production and labelling of organic products is, among other things, to contribute to the non-toxic environment, to promote the conservation of endangered or native breeds and to achieve biodiversity, in particular through the use of various plant genetic materials such as organic heterogeneous material. and organic varieties suitable for organic production.

The Regulation is a directly applicable regulation of the European Union and will thus apply in the Czech Republic from the date of its application/entering into force,.

The Regulation is supposed to enter into force on 1 January 2021, but in the light of current events it now a matter postponing its entry into force by one year. Requests for postponement are based on the arguments of the complex process of adopting secondary legislation on the EU level and the complications caused by the ongoing epidemic of the COVID-19 virus. At the same time, the requests also refer to the fact that there is no urgent need to fill in any legislative gaps, because the current EU Regulation No. 834/2007 is well established. The postponement of the date of entering into force of the Regulation will be subject to evaluation by the European institutions.

 

If you have any questions on this topic, we are at your disposal.

 

Mgr. Jakub Malek, partner – malek@plegal.cz

Barbora Fuková, legal assistant – fukova@plegal.cz

 

www.peytonlegal.cz

 

11. 06. 2020

 

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