New proposal on organic farming should ensure consumer confidence in higher animal welfare standards

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New proposal on organic farming should ensure consumer confidence in higher animal welfare standards

26 March 2014
News
This week the European Commission published the long awaited proposal for a new Regulation on organic farming and production, which would replace Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 following a period of transition.

The proposal aims to improve the existing legislation on organic production to better support its sustainable development in the Union, guarantee fair competition for farmers and operators, and maintain consumer confidence in organic products.

At a time when the demand for organic products is increasing and consumer awareness of and interest in animal welfare is also on the rise, the new proposal provides a good opportunity to ensure improved harmonization and enforcement of higher animal welfare standards in organic farming to benefit animals and consumers that care about animal welfare.

The Commission proposal follows an in depth analysis and impact assessment that was conducted by the Commission in 2012 and 2013, and Eurogroup for Animals and its members participated in relevant consultations. “Whilst we are very supportive of organic farming as a system that can benefit the welfare of animals, we also want to ensure that several exceptions to animal welfare rules that are possible in the current EU regulation on organic farming, such as the use of inappropriate breeds and tethering of livestock, among others, will be removed. Eurogroup for Animals will closely review this proposal and monitor future developments in the Parliament and Council to ensure that higher animal welfare standards will be respected,” said Reineke Hameleers, Director at Eurogroup for Animals.

A preliminary analysis of the proposal does suggest that the Commission is taking steps to help address some of these concerns, but further analysis and discussion will be needed to ensure that the proposal will most effectively protects animals. In addition to reducing the scope for granting exemptions to organic rules, the new proposal contains promising references to supporting the use of adapted breeds and ensuring appropriate housing and husbandry practices for livestock as well as providing suitable outdoor access. Disease prevention is also addressed. In addition to addressing terrestrial farms, the new proposal will also include additional rules and relevant definitions on organic aquaculture, which is of increasing importance in light of increasing global demand for seafood.

The new proposal also includes a number of other changes that would affect organic farming, including the introduction of group certification for small farmers and a movement towards compliance versus equivalence for third countries where appropriate. The proposal aims to also simplify legislative burdens and align the regulation with with the new Commission implementing powers introduced by Articles 290 and 291 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFUE). In this context, several rules that are not in the proposed basic regulation will be  further developed as appropriate in implementing or delegated acts.

The Commission proposal will be reviewed by the other EU institutions in the coming months, with enforcement of the final legislation, once agreed, not expected before 2017.

We also want to ensure that several exceptions to animal welfare rules that are possible in the current EU regulation on organic farming, such as the use of inappropriate breeds and tethering of livestock, among others, will be removed.
Reineke Hameleers, Director at Eurogroup for Animals