The Commission’s organic ambitions will be paid by consumers

Consumers will foot the bill for extravagant organic goals…

As I’ve previously explained on this website, the EU’s organic ambitions are seriously misled, because contrary to popular belief, organic food is neither environmentally friendly, nor better for consumers. Research has established that moving all current farming to organic farming would increase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 70%. Researchers analysed the hypothetical move of Welsh and English farm production to organic and found that reduced crop yields in organic farming increased the need to import food from overseas. Including the GHGs emitted growing that food abroad — a part of the equation often ignored advocates of organic agriculture — total GHGs emitted would increase between 21% in the best-case scenario to an astounding 70%, depending on how much natural habitat and forest had to be cleared to make up for the decline caused by England’s and Wales’ switch to organic production.

The recently released Organic Action Plan of the European Commission explains how exactly Berlaymont wants to boost organic production from the current 8 per cent to 25 per cent. On top of that, the Commission seeks to respond to the concerns of farmer’s unions, who remarked that if consumer demand does not match the supply, then they could be affected by serious price instabilities.

Two points in ‘Axis 1’ of the plan strike me:

  • promote organic canteens and increase the use of green public procurement;
  • reinforce organic school scheme

In essence, the Commission is trying to boost organic demand by forcing public institutions to adopt them in their canteens. This point remains vague, better it’s expected that the EU will adopt further subsidies for organic agriculture:

  • promote organic farming and the EU logo

Once again, consumers will be asked to foot the bill for agricultural ambitions of the EU. 

That said, the Organic Action Plan also includes the very necessary fight against fraud in the organic sector.

In its 2019 report titled “The control system for organic products has improved, but some challenges remain”, the European Court of Auditors found structural problems with the control system of organic food trade, despite controls being implemented in 1991. In a section on the communication on non-compliance, the ECA writes: 

“In Bulgaria, we found that some control bodies notified the competent authority about certain types of non-compliances only through their annual reporting. The competent authority did not notice this during its supervisory activities. In Czechia, we found that on average control bodies took 33 days in 2016 and 55 days in 2017 to report a non-compliance affecting the organic status of a product to the competent authority.”

The report also notes that non-compliance communication delays are 38 calendar days on average in the European Union, while existing regulations stipulate that reporting should happen without delay. This means that non-compliant organic products, i.e. fraudulent organic trade, continue a month on average in the legal circulation of the European single market, before being flagged to consumers.

The ECA also notes that member states were delayed in their reporting to the European Commission by an average of 4 months and that 50% of all analysed reports were missing information. China is the largest exporter of organic food to the European Union (based on weight, 2018 figures, from ECA report, see below). With significant difficulties concerning quality control of a large range of products originating from China, the EU institutions must prioritise the authenticity of these food imports

Overall, the Commission’s Plan is compiled of the problematic implementation of its organic ambitions at taxpayer’s expense, and the necessary fight against fraudulent imports. So we get the good, the bad, and once we get the stage of the directives, I fear we might see the ugly.

Originally published here.

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