Fabian Demicoli

On Organic Farming

Agriculture is
a fundamental issue that the EU has to deal with on a frequent basis. In fact,
one of the main features of the EU is its Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) that
was established in 1962 in order to ensure food security, to improve
agricultural productivity for affordable food for consumers and to ensure that
EU farmers can make a reasonable living.

A growing trend nowadays is the option
of buying organic products, which the Union is now promoting because of the
health and environmental benefits of organic farming. The CAP is one of the
motors that is working towards helping more farmers turn to organic farming.

Organic
food was once a commodity only found in health food shops, however it is now
common to find organic products in many supermarkets around the EU. Organic
producers must abide by Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 and Commission
Regulation (EC) No 889/2008; they are of course expected to own or rent farm
land and also be knowledgeable on this form of agriculture. "Organic" is a term
used to describe the farming method that places an emphasis on water and soil
conservation and a reduction of pollution. Thus, organic producers differ from
conventional farms. One example would be that, unlike conventional producers,
they do not use chemical fertilisers to grow plants and instead opt for natural
fertilisers such as manure.

Over the
last decade the EU organic market has quadrupled in size, thereby requiring
some alterations to be made to the rules and regulations so as to allow the
organic food sector to progress. The EU has set up a number of rules, such as
the labelling and logo rules which make it easier for consumers to identify
organic products. It is obligatory for organic producers to make use of the
logo for any pre-packaged organic food that has been produced within the EU's
borders.

A new
proposal by the European Commission for improved regulations on organic
production and labelling aims to respond to the challenges posed by the present
system. Dacian Ciolos, the Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development,
has stated that the EU is working towards eliminating obstacles to the growth
of organic agriculture with a proposal that is beneficial to both producers and
consumers. According to Commissioner Ciolos, "producers and retailers [of
organic products] will have access to a larger market, both within and outside
the EU." When it comes to agricultural trade with states outside of the EU, the
proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the
United States and the EU is an interesting issue to look at. A prominent factor
to the negotiations over an open EU-US market is the mutual recognition of
rules and regulations. The US standards in food and agriculture are lower than
the EU's and therefore the EU might be required to lower its own standards for
any deal to take place.

The
Commission's proposal features three main goals: maintaining producer
confidence, maintaining consumer confidence and making the transition to
organics more accessible for farmers. It is fundamental that the practice of
organic farming remains true to its objectives and values so that the
consumer's quality and environmental demands are met. In a nutshell, the
Commission aims to harmonise rules, reinforce controls by making them
risk-based, simplify the legislation to reduce administrative costs for farmers
and make it easier for small farmers to take part in organic farming through an
introduction of a group certification system.

A
Maltese NGO, Malta Organic Agriculture Movement (MOAM), aims to inform the
public about the benefits of organic products. It is an independent and
voluntary organisation that was established back in 1999, whose members include
farmers, consumers and others who seek to promote organic farming in Malta.
Furthermore, the Ministry for Sustainable Development, the Environment and
Climate Change has a separate branch – the Organic Farming Unit – that happens
to be one of the more contemporary sections within the Department of
Agriculture. The Organic Farming Unit is required to increase awareness of
organic farming in the Maltese Islands and help make organic farming a more
viable practice. The body also supervises the importation of organic products
from third countries, whilst fulfilling expectations of Community Regulation
2092/91.

 

Article
by Andre Rizzo Naudi – Student reading a Bachelors degree in European Studies
at the University of Malta

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