For debate in the Standing Committee — see Rule 15 of the Rules of Procedure

Doc. 9887

22 July 2003

Development of organic farming

Report

Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs

Rapporteur: Mr António Nazaré Pereira, Portugal, EPP/CD

Summary

Organic farming is enjoying growing interest throughout Europe, particularly as it favours environmental protection, food quality, animal welfare and the conservation of resources. But many Council of Europe member states have no specific regulations in this area and, where regulations exist, they are not harmonised at European level.

This report advocates stronger public authority backing for organic farming and a European strategy to guide its development. It recommends the drawing-up of a European Charter for organic farming, which would make it possible to establish a common line of thought and strategy for the development of organic farming for the whole of Europe, a joint approach for regulation and alternative agricultural models that are more respectful of the environment.

I.       Draft recommendation

1.       The Parliamentary Assembly recognises that organic farming is particularly well suited to meeting certain criteria that are increasingly present in the framing of agricultural policy and in the minds of European consumers, as it places the onus inter alia on environmental protection, food quality, animal welfare and conservation of resources.

2.        The Assembly notes that organic farming is enjoying growing interest throughout Europe, among both consumers and farmers, as demonstrated by the steady growth in the market for organic produce despite higher production costs and purchase prices.

3.       This development has prompted the introduction of international regulations within the Codex Alimentarius (FAO/WHO) or European regulations, at the level of the European Union, but it has to be acknowledged that many Council of Europe member states, particularly those in Eastern Europe, have no specific regulations in this area and, where regulations exist, they are not harmonised.

4.       The Assembly advocates stronger public authority backing for organic farming in view of its environmental benefits and favourable impact as regards competition. At the same time it is necessary to reinforce the regulations governing the certification and labelling of organic produce.

5.       National plans of action, such as those already introduced in certain European countries, could be drawn up with a view to planning and coordinating the development of organic farming in different spheres, such as information for producers and consumers, the processing and marketing of organic produce or the development of openings on both domestic and export markets.

6.       The Assembly believes that, in the interests of both growth of the organic produce market and the necessary promotion of sustainable agricultural development and the need to guarantee improved food security, a European strategy is required to guide the development of organic farming, together with efforts to harmonise national policies in this sphere, not only where the European Union and the acceding states are concerned but also at the broader level of the Council of Europe.

7.       It notes that the European Union has initiated preliminary discussion on drawing up a European plan of action for organic farming, but it believes that governmental and parliamentary political action is necessary to determine the place of organic farming alongside the other production systems, particularly within the Common Agricultural Policy, and the support from which it should benefit, particularly in European Union non-member states.

8.       The Assembly considers that there are grounds for drawing up a European Charter for organic food and farming, which would make it possible inter alia to establish a common line of thought and strategy for the development of organic farming for the whole of Europe, a joint approach to regulation, particularly where certification and standardisation are concerned, to contribute to the stability and security of the entire agricultural system and to propose alternative models for agricultural development that are more respectful of the environment.

9.       Consequently, the Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

i. invite the member states, particularly those that are not members of the European Union, to introduce national plans of action for organic farming, aimed in particular at:

ii. draw up a European Charter for organic food and farming, which might take the form of a recommendation to the member states, geared to:

10.       The Assembly recommends that the European Union support organic farming in the current reflection process and in regular reviews of the Common Agricultural Policy and draw up a European action plan for organic farming.

II.       Explanatory memorandum by Mr Nazaré Pereira1

CONTENTS

1.       INTRODUCTION       5

2.       BACKGROUND       5

2.4.1       Environment       9

2.4.2       Animal welfare       9

2.4.3       Food safety, nutrition and health       9

2.4.4       Financial viability       10

2.4.5       Social issues       10

2.4.6       Rural development       10

2.6.1       Western Europe       12

2.6.2       Central and Eastern Europe       13

2.7.1       Country action plan examples       14

2.7.2       European Union action plan       16

3.       PROPOSALS FOR A EUROPEAN CHARTER FOR ORGANIC FOOD AND FARMING       16

3.2.1       Recognise the potential contribution of organic farming       18

3.2.2       Strengthen the performance of organic farming       18

3.2.3       Empower the consumer       18

3.2.4       Support organic producers       18

3.2.5       Strengthen and develop regulatory systems       19

3.2.6       Develop organic supply chains       19

3.2.7       Develop specific policy programmes for CEE states       19

3.2.8       Adopt an integrated, action plan approach       20

1.       Introduction

1.       The background to this report is a motion for a recommendation of September 2000 on the Establishment of a European Organic Farming Charter (Doc. 8816). This report reflects the situation in 2002, some two years later. The updated context includes in particular:

2.       Background

2.1 Definition of organic farming

2.       Organic farming is an approach to agriculture that emphasises environmental protection, animal welfare, food quality and health, sustainable resource use and social justice objectives, and which utilises the market to help support these objectives and compensate for the internalisation of externalities5. As such, organic farming is neither a return to agriculture of 100 years ago, nor farming by neglect without inputs, but a developed approach to agriculture, based on science, with the selective use of modern technologies (e.g. machinery, varieties, breeds) that are consistent with these broader goals. Typical practices include:

3.       The objectives of organic farming, and the practices adopted, represent one approach among several to achieving greater sustainability in agriculture. While sharing common goals with many of the other approaches, such as integrated crop management, that also emphasise the selective use of modern technologies to optimise production systems, organic farming represents a more critical approach and involves greater restrictions on the use of some of the technologies, in particular agro-chemicals and genetic engineering. Research has shown that the greater restrictions do result in additional environmental and resource use sustainability benefits compared with less restrictive approaches such as integrated crop management.

2.2       Regulation of organic farming

4.       A unique feature of organic farming among other approaches to agricultural sustainability is the reliance on specialist markets to help maintain financial viability. From the 1960s to the 1980s, organic farming received little official recognition and no direct financial support from government, which meant that producers had to rely on consumers’ willingness to pay for the perceived benefits of organic food in order to compensate for restricting the technologies used and the lower yields and higher costs that resulted.

5.       The development of specialist markets requires that organic products can be reliably identified, in order to protect consumers and genuine producers, and to prevent fraudulent claims. Because the outputs of organic farming cannot be distinguished by specific characteristics of the end product, it is the production process that is used to distinguish organic products in the market place. This requires detailed production standards, inspection procedures and control systems to ensure traceability in the supply chain.

6.       Initially, production standards were developed by producer associations in individual countries6, 7. These efforts were co-ordinated internationally by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)8, which has become the global voice for the organic movement and the key NGO partner in international discussions. IFOAM sets baseline standards, which are used by national organisations to develop their own standards, and has established an international accreditation programme, to facilitate international trade.

7.       Building on the pioneering work of IFOAM, the FAO/WHO’s Codex Alimentarius Commission 9 has established global, officially-recognised guidelines for organic farming, which can also be used for facilitating trade. However, the major markets for organic food, the USA and the EU, have implemented their own legal regulations that differ in parts from the Codex guidelines.

8.       The European Union organic farming regulations are of particular relevance to the Council of Europe, since these are implemented in the 15 existing member states as well as the 10 states due to join the EU in 2004, as well as several other CoE member states, for example Switzerland, Norway and Turkey, that have used the EU regulations as a basis for their own national regulations. The two major regulations (supplemented by several amending regulations) are EC Reg. 2092/9110, which defines organic crop production and establishes the inspection procedures to be implemented in member states, and EC. Reg 1804/199911, which defines organic livestock production and prohibits the use of genetically modified organisms in organic farming.

2.3 Growth of organic farming in Europe

9.       Although organic farming as a concept has existed for over 80 years, only since the mid 1980s has it become the focus of significant attention from policy-makers, consumers, environmentalists and farmers in Europe. Consumer demand for organic food has risen sharply, leading to the active involvement of multiple retailers and substantially higher prices at the farm gate than those received in the conventional sector. Policy support for organic farming is now widely available across Europe, in recognition of its contribution to surplus reduction, environmental and rural development policy objectives. These factors have contributed to substantial growth in supply, helping market development by increasing availability of products and raw materials, but in some cases also leading to oversupply problems and downward price pressures.

10.       In 1985, certified and policy-supported organic production accounted for just over 100,000 ha, or less than 0.02% of the total agricultural area in Europe. By the end of 2001, this had increased to almost 5.5 million ha (Fig. 1). In the same period, the number of organic holdings increased from 6,500 to nearly 190,000. Alongside the increase in the supply base, the market for organic produce has also grown significantly, but statistics on the overall size of the market for organic produce in Europe are still very limited12. Some recent estimates13 have suggested that the retail sales value of the European market for organic food was of the order of 8-10 billion EUR in 2000.

11.       These figures hide great variability within and between regions and countries. The majority of this growth has taken place within the European Union, where close to 4% of the land area is now under organic management, and several countries (Italy, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Austria) have achieved 4-12% of their agricultural area managed organically (Fig. 2). Outside the EU, countries such as Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the Czech Republic have also experienced high rates of adoption. Many other western and central European states are showing steady growth and are now at the 1-2% level of adoption, and in most cases have the institutional basis (organisations, regulations and policies) to permit further expansion, although specific factors in each country may be impeding growth and need to be addressed.

12.       Slowest growth can be seen in the Eastern European states, for which little accurate data is available, although some indications can be found in reports from the FAO14, ITC15 and others16. The absence of firm statistical data is a reflection of the early stage of development in these countries, and suggest that specific policies are needed to address the situation which will be different to those being implemented in the western European and CEE countries.

13.       Most of the growth (90% of the expansion in the land area) has taken place in the last decade, since the implementation of EC Reg. 2092/91 and the widespread application of policies to support conversion to and continued organic farming as part of the agri-environment programmes in the EU and elsewhere. However, specific factors, such as strong market growth, the crises in conventional agriculture in the UK and elsewhere, and strong policy support in Switzerland and Scandinavian countries, have also contributed to the growth rates in individual countries17, 18.

Fig. 1       Organic and in-conversion land area (million ha) in Europe, year ending 1985-2001


Fig. 2       Organic and in-conversion land area (hundred thousand ha) and as a proportion of total utilisable agricultural area (%) in individual States, year ending 2001
(Source: own data, see: www.organic.aber.ac.uk/stats.shtml) Data not available for CoE countries not shown

2.4 Impact of organic farming with respect to policy goals

14.       A key reason for policy interest in organic farming lies in the increasing coincidence of organic farming goals and policy goals19 with respect to the environment, resource use sustainability, animal welfare, food safety, nutrition and human health, financial viability and social justice. However, a commitment to these goals, and the specification of particular practices and technologies to achieve them in production standards, does not necessarily guarantee their achievement in practice. It is necessary to consider the available research evidence and in many cases to identify specific standards, policy measures and further research that could lead to improved performance with respect to these goals.

2.4.1 Environment

15.       There is strong evidence from research, field trials and farm experience that organic farming compares favourably to conventional and integrated production with respect to environmental performance20, particular with respect to lower pesticide residues, richer biodiversity, lower nutrient run-off, reduced fossil energy consumption and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. This positive picture is certainly true on a per unit land area scale, and often, but not always, on per unit food produced basis, since organic farming uses more land area to produce the same amount of product. Also within organic farming the picture is not always uniform with respect to environmental performance, due to the wide range of organic farming systems as well as skills, experience and management ability of individual producers, and scope exists for further improvements, e.g. through specific research programmes.

2.4.2 Animal welfare

16.       A special concern for animal welfare is part of the organic farming idea and thus organic farming standards include several requirements relating to this topic. Especially important are requirements relating specifically to grassland or outdoor access, livestock housing, less intensive diets and prohibitions on most prophylactic treatments without any acute need. Also in this area of comparison organic farming performs equal or better than conventional22, 21. However, the results of such comparisons depend on animal species and to some extent also on the regulations prevailing for conventional agriculture. They might change over time and with developing legislation and policy. For example, organic animal husbandry standards were only defined by EU legislation in 2000, thus organic animal husbandry is expected to outperform conventional farming to a greater extent in the future. Equally, tightening of standards for conventional animal husbandry can change the picture.

2.4.3 Food safety, nutrition and health

17.       The risk of contamination of food with pesticide and antibiotic residues has been found to be lower for organic than for conventional food. Equally, there is no evidence that organic foods are more risky with respect to microbial and natural toxin contamination22, 23. However, research on these topics is still limited. The same holds true for the nutritional value of organic foodstuffs – contents of dry matter, minerals and flavour-providing substances have been found to be higher for organic food in some studies while other studies were unable to confirm this result. The contradictory evidence means that it is not possible to make a conclusive case for the improved nutritional and food safety value of organic foods in the way that it is possible to make an environmental case, but there is sufficient evidence of potential benefits, particularly in the context of the precautionary principle, to justify significant additional research investment and further consideration of this issue.

2.4.4 Financial viability

18.       One of the main concerns of agricultural policy is to preserve the economic viability of farming in general and ensure a sufficiently high income so that farming families will continue farming. This is also an important consideration for agricultural sustainability. The economic viability of organic farming depends strongly on the relative production cost (compared to conventional), the existence of an organic market where farmers can receive premium prices and the availability of specific agri-environmental support for organic farming. In addition, the profitability of organic farming is also influenced by the general market situation and policy development. A comparative review24 of the economic situation of organic and conventional farms shows that average profits of organic farms are similar to those of comparable conventional farms, but the income effect of conversion to organic production depends on farm type, location and country. Generally, extensive farms in marginal regions are more likely to benefit from conversion than intensive farms in fertile regions.

2.4.5 Social issues

19.       Organic farming is also concerned with social issues and there are many examples of community supported agriculture and similar initiatives being developed by individual producers, as well as in many cases the adoption of Fairtrade standards for trade with developing countries25. However, these initiatives remain a minority within the organic sector and in comparison to the other issues mentioned, in general social issues have been much less developed until now. This is being addressed by new initiatives by IFOAM26 and others27 in the organic movement to include social issues in organic standards, but it may be some time before these initiatives are reflected in official regulations.

2.4.6 Rural development

20.       Rural development has become a key issue of European agricultural policy28, 29 and an array of policies has been implemented to enhance economic development in rural areas, with the main objective of increasing income of rural households and reducing unemployment rates. Organic farming needs in most cases more labour per unit area26 and traditionally has evolved through small processing and marketing businesses often located in rural areas30. In situations where the labour force in agriculture is still high and where it is desirable to have only a gradual decrease, measurable positive effects of organic farming on the number of jobs can be expected if organic markets are accessible for these farms. In highly industrialised countries organic farming may have little direct effects on unemployment rates in rural areas. Indirect positive effects such as increased employment in tourism due to a positive “ecological” image of a region can also be of importance.

2.5 The case for policy intervention

21.       Policy makers are interested in supporting organic agriculture for two main reasons31, 32, 33. Firstly, organic farming is recognised as delivering environmental and other benefits to society that society wants. These benefits are public goods, which would not be delivered in sufficient quantities without government intervention. Organic farming support can also be seen as one way to address the issue of negative environmental externalities in modern farming. Of course there are other policies needed and some already in place that deal with decreasing these negative impacts of conventional farming. The key advantage of organic farming support compared to other more specific agri-environmental policy instruments is that a broad range of environmental and other benefits can be obtained, partly supported by the market, and organic farming support is comparatively easy and inexpensive to administer because of the existence of control/inspection systems. In general terms, the more targeted agri-environmental instruments may be more effective at achieving specific targets, but are likely to yield fewer benefits in related areas, and may be associated with much higher transaction and monitoring costs. In these circumstances, support for environmentally friendly farming systems such as organic farming, with more general benefits and lower transaction costs, might actually be a superior policy.

22.       The second argument rests on the following observation: overall, the organic sector is still too small to benefit from economies of scale, especially in the chain between farm gate and point of sale to consumers, which leads to comparatively high costs. These in turn necessitate high premium prices and are one reason why only a relatively small number of products are available in supermarkets. These factors deter the potential "new organic consumer" from actually buying the products. With low levels of demand, the situation stays unchanged. This analysis forms the basis to argue that organic farming can be regarded as an “infant” industry, support for which can be justified in terms of expanding consumer choice and allowing the industry to develop to a point at which it is able to be independent and compete in established markets and make a positive contribution to rural development.

23.       Although both justifications can be seen to be utilised in most countries, the first is more typical of some Scandinavian and Central European countries (e.g. Sweden, Finland, Austria) while the second approach is reflected in the Dutch focus on supply chain initiatives34, the UK’s historic unwillingness to support farms beyond the initial conversion phase33 and the new English organic action plan focus on market targets35. However, there is a significant risk that if the organic market becomes an end in itself, rather than a means to supporting the broader goals of organic farming, then the benefits to society, and the basis for consumer trust in organic products, will be undermined. In addition, it is relevant to ask why a small minority of consumers should be expected to pay through higher prices for benefits that accrue to society as a whole.

24.       The challenge for policy makers is to develop a mix of policies that can make effective use of the market base which the organic community has developed, while at the same time allowing organic agriculture to remain true to its original aims, thus maximising the broader benefits to society as a whole.

2.6 Examples of policy measures to support organic farming

2.6.1 Western Europe

25.       The positive perceptions of the potential of organic farming led to the introduction of support programmes in various western European countries starting in the late 1980s36, 37.

26.       In the European Union, the two most important policy measures, in terms of their impact on the organic farming sector, were

• the agri-environmental policies38, with specific provisions for organic farming, implemented as a consequence of the 1992 MacSharry Reform of EU agriculture policies, and continued as part of the rural development programme39 under Agenda 2000;

• the EU-wide common certification system for organic farming, which came into effect in 1993 and was extended to the animal production sector in 2000 (see section 2.2 above).

27.       Similar policies were implemented in the EFTA states, so that by 1998, all western European states had implemented regulations to certify organic products and to provide direct financial support to producers converting to or (in nearly all cases) continuing with organic production.

28.       In financial terms, the agri-environmental support programmes are the most important western European policies applicable to organic farming, with nearly €190 million of a total of about €300 million spent on organic farming support in the EU in 1996 accounted for by direct support under agri-environmental programmes. In the following year, this increased to €260 million and current expenditure is believed to be ca. €600 million. Against this, all other areas are much less important in financial terms.

29.       Lately, because of the impacts of supply increases on the markets for organic food, there has been increased interest in some countries in a more diversified approach to the selection of organic farming support policies, with particular interest in demand pull rather than supply push initiatives. Thus a wide range of policies can be found in different countries, some of which are not necessarily specific to the organic sector, but may be targeted at organics as a priority sector. Examples of such policies include:

Producer-focused support

Supply chain-focused support

Consumer-focused support

30.       From this list, two areas emerge as deserving attention at all levels. Firstly, a wide variety of information initiatives in all areas of the food chain are needed to ensure both effective communication of existing knowledge and to improve the performance of organic farming with respect to policy goals. Secondly, appropriate partnerships are needed at all levels, in particular between stakeholders and government, as well as the development of appropriate infrastructures, to ensure the effective development of the organic sector.

31.       It should be noted that the mainstream commodity measures are also available to organic producers, and that in particular the shift from price support to area-based support is likely to have been beneficial for organic producers. In general terms, decoupling of support from specific commodities, and the shift of resources to rural development measures as proposed in the mid-term review of Agenda 2000, is likely to be beneficial for organic producers. However, there is still a need to reduce the impact on organic farming of supply constraining measures such as set-aside and quotas, since organic farming involves reduced levels of output per se, and in many case markets remain under rather than oversupplied.

2.6.2 Central and Eastern Europe

32.       Similar policy initiatives have also been developed in several of the CEE states poised to join the EU. Examples of direct financial support to organic producers can be found already in the early 1990s in the Czech Republic41. More recently, policies including direct financial support have been implemented in, for example, the Czech republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovenia under SAPARD42. Several countries have also implemented regulations defining organic farming consistent with the European Union regulations.

33.       Apart from the usual market opportunities, organic farming approaches can be well suited to areas of high nature value where traditional agriculture is already very extensive, by offering the potential for higher returns, although positive management is required to minimise the risk of environmental damage through neglect/inaction43. The European Commission’s evaluation44 of the impact of enlargement on agriculture in CEE countries highlighted the potential role of organic farming, and the opportunities have been identified by policy makers in other Central and Eastern European states, although in some cases little action has taken place despite efforts to include organic farming in pilot agri-environmental programmes.

34.       Organic farming may have a role in improving productivity in regions where access to external inputs is limited by financial or other constraints and maximising outputs in a self-sufficiency, subsistence context is important. (For this reason, Cuba has adopted organic farming methods as a major part of its agricultural policy, and the FAO45 has identified the contribution that organic farming can make to food security outside the normally perceived context of premium price markets for organic produce).

35.       Some commentators have suggested that organic farming is also relevant as a means of gaining access to EU support payments in the accession countries if the mainstream commodity payments are restricted. However, encouraging producers to adopt organic practices without a full understanding of and commitment to the reasons or methods to be used could lead to problems of acceptance in the longer term.

36.       The specific circumstances of countries in this region, in particular low labour payments; small farm structures in some countries; high proportions of the population deriving incomes from agriculture; the lack of developed domestic organic markets; and the lack of information (research, training etc.) and certification infrastructures needed to support a developing organic sector all mean that specific policies are needed that will be different to those developed in western European countries with a longer history of organic farming.

2.7 Action plans for organic farming

37.       A key problem facing policy-makers is the balancing of the supply (push) and demand (pull) initiatives to achieve sustainable development of organic agriculture in support of environmental and rural development goals. Some countries (e.g. Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Wales and England in the United Kingdom) have developed integrated action plans46 in an attempt to achieve a better policy mix. The range of approaches adopted, however, illustrates the problems, and the political pressures, inherent in achieving this.

38.       The organic farming action plans normally include targets for adoption (typically 5-10% by 2000/2005 or 10-20% by 2010) and a combination of specific measures including: direct support through the agri-environment/rural development programmes; marketing and processing support; producer information initiatives; consumer education and infrastructure support. The more detailed plans contain evaluations of the current situation and specific recommendations to address issues identified, including measures to ameliorate conflicts between different policy measures. Some examples are illustrated in more detail below.

2.7.1 Country action plan examples

39.       Denmark has the longest history of policy support for organic farming, with the first measures introduced in 1987. The first Danish Action Plan of 1995 covered the period until 1999. Its 7% by 2000 target was almost achieved, with 6% of agricultural land in Denmark certified in 2000. Action Plan II47 aims for an increase of 150,000 ha, to ca. 12% of agricultural land, by 2003. The plan was drawn up by the Danish Council for Organic Agriculture, a partnership between government, organic producer organisations, conventional farming groups, trade unions, consumer and environmental groups. It is characterised by an in-depth analysis of the situation in Denmark and represents the best developed example of the action plan approach, containing 85 recommendations targeting demand and supply, consumption and sales, primary production, quality and health, export opportunities as well as institutional and commercial catering. The plan has a specific focus on public goods and policy issues, with recommendations aimed at further improving the performance of organic agriculture with respect to environmental and animal health and welfare goals, including research and development initiatives, administrative streamlining and policy development.

40.       The situation in Germany has a more overtly political basis. The fall-out from the BSE crisis in Germany in 2000 led to a goal of 20% organic farming by 2010 being set. This was heavily criticised by farming unions and agricultural economists, in part because of the absence of specific measures to achieve the goal. However, the rates of payment for the federal German organic farming scheme were increased and a unified symbol for organic products introduced (following the failure of private sector initiatives to achieve a similar goal). Marketing and processing support initiatives continue through the rural development plan. The German ‘Federal Programme for Organic Agriculture’48 is not strictly an action plan as it does not aim to integrate or modify policy measures that are already in place, but seeks instead to create a new information programme targeting all elements of the supply chain, from the input suppliers through producers, distributors, processors and retailers to consumers. Substantial funding (€70 million in 2002/2003) is directed at the key elements, including web-based information resources, research, training and demonstration activities, with the major share of funding targeted at consumer information campaigns.

41.       In contrast to the mixed approach in Denmark with an emphasis on both market development and the delivery of public goods and the dominant information focus of the German programme, the most recent action plan in the Netherlands,An organic market to conquer49, reflects the very strong demand/supply chain focus of Dutch policy, which targets a 10% organic share of production by 2010. The plan aims to improve the functioning and efficiency of the supply chain, to reach new, less ideological consumers, and to retain consumer confidence through effective certification procedures, but it also recognises the need for continuing research and information dissemination initiatives. In contrast to other countries, the policy includes the phasing out of supply measures including direct payments, with support for conversion available for the last time in 2002.

42.       Norway’s first action plan50 was published in 1995 included specific measures to encourage more mixed farming approaches to organic farming by reallocating quotas on a geographical basis, thus reversing an historical process of concentrating particular commodities in specific regions. Other measures included direct financial support, market development through strengthening supply chains, support for research and education initiatives, as well as initiatives to increase the know how and improve attitudes to organic farming in local agriculture offices. In 2000, the Norwegian Parliament supported the further development of organic farming, aiming for an increase of the organic share of agricultural area to 10% by 2010, provided that there is a functioning market for organic food products.

43.       In the United Kingdom, action plans have been produced in Wales and in England. The Welsh action plan51, published in 1999, aims for 10% of Welsh agriculture to be organic by 2005 and for organic farming to play a key role in agricultural/environmental policies as well as exploiting market opportunities at home and abroad. This is to be achieved by increasing the supply of organic products from Wales, developing markets for Welsh organic products, and addressing specific bottlenecks that might occur. An integrated approach combining three main types of activities was envisaged: effective utilisation of existing measures and development of new policy initiatives; marketing measures (including market analysis and development, marketing and processing/RDP grants, and related training and business advice; and information measures, involving a co-ordinated information strategy and the establishment of an organic centre for excellence. The more recent English action plan52 does not include targets for production, focusing instead on market share of domestic organic products, but does for the first time introduce the concept of maintenance payments for organic producers (as available elsewhere in Europe). It also includes a series of supply chain initiatives, including reform of the certification system and improved statistical and bench-marking data, as well as increased funding for research, the establishment of an institute to support the accreditation and information needs of advisors, and a range of other training and extension initiatives linked to existing programmes for conventional producers.

2.7.2 European Union action plan

44.       At the EU level, a strategic focus for policy support for organic agriculture is needed, given its potential significance in coming years. Although the implementation of measures to support organic farming is primarily a matter for member states, it is important that the enabling regulatory framework is adequate to provide the right policy mix, including the minimisation of conflicts between individual initiatives. As organic farming grows, the size of the sector will begin to impact on the overall supply and market situations for agricultural products in the EU, and this will need to form part of the considerations for ongoing reform of the main commodity measures. Therefore, while the EU may hold back from setting a global target for organic production, some consensus on the longer-term potential of the sector is still desirable. In addition, there is a need for certain actions at an EU-wide level, for example a common, non-discriminatory identification symbol (also applicable to non EU-products).

45.       The development of a European action plan was initiated by the European conference on organic farming held in Copenhagen in May 200153, and subsequently supported by the Council of Agricultural Ministers in June 2001. A working document from the EU Commission was presented to the Council of Ministers in December 200254. In-depth Member State and stakeholder consultation are scheduled for 2003 and are planned to result in proposals for further appropriate steps before the end of 2003.

46.       The working document of the European Commission includes a description of the development of organic farming as well as an attempt to analyse the current situation. It does not suggest a coherent set of actions but only recommends reflection on a number of broader issues connected to organic farming that could possibly become part of a European action plan.

47.       Among the major weaknesses of the working document is the lack of a strategic view of the role of organic farming within the context of agricultural policy. The European Commission fails to answer the key question on which role it foresees for organic farming in comparison to other farming systems. The paper does not even include a clear statement whether a European action plan is desirable at all. Furthermore the document lacks an in-depth analysis of the necessary revisions the Common Agricultural Policy might have to undergo if organic farming is to be supported more strongly, as identified in the Copenhagen conference and by key stakeholder NGOs such as IFOAM55, and it remains unclear what the connections between a European action plan and the mid-term review of Agenda 2000 are.

48.       As such, the European Commission’s working document falls short of the expectations of the participants in the May 2001 conference in Copenhagen, as well as the stakeholders and other expert participants in the Commission’s external working group. The consultation process in 2003 will require significant political action, at governmental and parliamentary level as well as by stakeholders, if the situation is to be improved. The possible development of a European Charter for Organic Food and Farming by the Council of Europe on the initiative of the Parliamentary Assembly could provide a strong signal of the preferred directions that an EU action plan for organic food and farming, applicable to 25 of the 45 CoE member states, should take.

3.       Proposals for a European Charter for organic food and farming

3.1 Value, role and justification of a Council of Europe Charter

49.       A European Charter for Organic Farming covering the 45 Council of Europe member states, including the 25 members of an enlarged European Union working within a common policy and regulatory framework for organic farming, would have the potential to:

50.       A European Charter for Organic Food and Farming should thus give some context and vision for the development of organic farming to 2015 and beyond, by specifying the potential role of organic farming in European agriculture, in particular:

3.2 Key recommendations for a European Charter

51.       In the context of the vision outlined above, and drawing on the conclusions of the Copenhagen conference57, the draft EU action plan58, and policy analyses conducted by Professors Lampkin and Dabbert 59, 60, a European Charter should:

3.2.1 Recognise the potential contribution of organic farming to agricultural policy reform and rural development by:

3.2.2 Strengthen the performance of organic farming with respect to environmental, social and other public goods by:

3.2.3 Empower the consumer to actively support the changing direction of agricultural policy, and in particular the contribution of organic farming, by:

3.2.4 Support organic producers directly and indirectly, by:

3.2.5 Strengthen and develop regulatory systems in particular by:

3.2.6 Develop organic supply chains (covering inputs, production, processing, trade, distribution, retailing and catering), by:

3.2.7 Develop specific policy programmes for CEE states in particular those at a very early stage of development. Organic farming has been identified as an interesting option for overcoming a number of problems faced by CEE agriculture. CEE countries should not repeat the environmental mistakes caused by high-input agriculture in the EU and could rely instead on improving the environmental and economic performance of dominant low-input agriculture, “greening” the remaining high-input agriculture and stimulating a wider spread of organic agriculture, by:

3.2.8 Adopt an integrated, action plan approach which takes the dynamic nature of the organic sector into account, balances supply-push and demand-pull measures and reflects the specific circumstances of individual countries or regions. Such action plans should include:

o

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Reporting committee: Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional Affairs

Reference to committee: Doc. 8816 and reference No. 2538 of 25 September 2000 (extended by the Bureau on 24 June 2002).

Draft recommendation adopted by the committee on 26 June 2003.

Members of the committee: Mr Martinez Casañ (Chairman) (Alternate : Fernandez Aguilar), MM. Meale, Gubert, Schmied (Vice-Chairmen), MM. Açikgöz, Mrs Agudo, MM. Akselsen, Andov, Annemans, Mrs Anttila, Ates, Blaauw, Çavusoglu, Sir Sydney Chapman, Mr Churkin, Mrs Ciemniak, MM. Cosarciuc, Deittert, Delattre, Dokle, Duka-Zolyomi, Ekes, Etherington, Frunda, Giovanelli (Alternate: Crema), Gonzalez de Txabarri (Alternate: de Puig), Götz (Alternate: Adam), Graas, Grabowski, Grachev, Grissemann, Mrs Hajiyeva (Alternate: Mr Huseynov), Mr Haraldsson, Ms Herczog, MM. Hladiy, Högmark, Ilascu, Mrs Jäger, Mr Juric, Mrs Kanelli (Alternate: Mr Floros), Mr Kharitonov, Lord Kilclooney (Alternate : Mr O’Hara), MM. Klympush, Kuzvart, Lachat (Alternate: Maissen), Libicki, van der Linden, Lobkowicz, Loncle (Alternate: Lengagne), Manukyan, Masseret, Mauro, Mrs Mesquita, MM. Meyer (Alternate: Goulet), Milojevic, Mincevic (Alternate: Mrs Burbiene), Mrs Muizniece, Mr Nazaré Pereira, Mrs Ohlsson, MM. Oliverio, Opmann, Podeschi, Podobnik, Popov (Alternate : Sudarenkov), Pullicino Orlando, Salaridze, Ms Schicker, MM. Sfyriou, Sizopoulos, Steenblock, Ms Støjberg, Mr Stoica (Alternate: Coifan), Ms Stoyanova, MM. Tabajdi, Timmermans, Vakilov, Velikov, Wright, Zhevago,

N.B. The names of those members present at the meeting are printed in italics.

Secretariat to the committee: Mrs Cagnolati, Mr Sixto, Mr Torcatoriu and Ms Odrats.


1 The rapporteur would like to thank Dr. Nicolas Lampkin of the Institute of Rural Studies, University of Wales, and Prof. Dr. Stephan Dabbert of the Institute of Farm Management, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart, for their invaluable contribution to the preparation and drawing up of this report.

2 Organic Food and Farming: Towards Partnership and Action in Europe. Proceedings of conference organised by Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Copenhagen, May 2001. www.fvm.dk/kundeupload/konferencer/organic_food_farming/index.htm

3 Analysis of the possibility of a European Action plan for organic food and farming. Commission Staff Working Document, December 2002. Commission of the European Communities, Brussels.

4 Workshop on Organic Agriculture, Washington DC, September 2002. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris. (Proceedings to be published on OECD website in near future).

5 Lampkin, N., C. Foster, S. Padel and P. Midmore (1999) The policy and regulatory environment for organic farming in Europe. Organic Farming in Europe: Economics and Policy, Vols. 1 and 2, University of Hohenheim.

6 For further details, see Lampkin, N., C. Foster, S. Padel and P. Midmore (1999) The policy and regulatory environment for organic farming in Europe. Organic Farming in Europe: Economics and Policy, Vol. 1 and 2, University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart.

7 Organic agriculture, environment and food security. Environment and Natural Resources, 4. Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome, 2002.

8 International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements: www.ifoam.org

9 FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission Guidelines for the Production, Processing, Labelling and Marketing of Organically Produced Foods. Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome, 2001. ftp://ftp.fao.org/codex/standard/booklets/organics/gl01_32e.pdf

10 Council Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91 of 24 June 1991 on organic production of agricultural products and indications referring thereto on agricultural products and foodstuffs. OJ L198 (22.7.91), 1-15.

11 Council Regulation (EC) No 1804/1999 of 19 July 1999 supplementing Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91 on organic production of agricultural products and indications referring thereto on agricultural products and foodstuffs to include livestock production. OJ :L 222, 24/08/1999, 1-28.

12 Hamm, U.; Gronefeld, F. and D. Halpin (2002) Analysis of the European Market for Organic Food. University of Wales, Aberystwyth.

13 World Markets for Organic Fruit and Vegetables. International Trade Centre, Rome, 2001.

14 Organic agriculture, environment and food security. Environment and Natural Resources, 4. Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome, 2002.

15 Organic food and beverages: world supply and major European Markets. ITC/UNCTAD, Geneva, 1999.

16 e.g. Organic Agriculture Worldwide, 2002. Yuseffi, M and Willer, H. Stiftung Oekologie und Landbau. www.soel.de/inhalte/publikationen/s_74.pdf

17 Michelsen, J., Lynggaard, K., Padel, S. and Foster, C. (2001) Institutional factors influencing variations in the rate of conversion to organic farming in Europe 1985-96: In-depth studies of selected nations/regions. Organic Farming in Europe: Economics and Policy, Vol. 9., University of Hohenheim.

18 Organic Europe: www.organic-europe.net. Stiftung Oekologie und Landbau, 1999-2002.

19 Towards sustainable farming: Commission presents EU farm policy mid-term review. IP/02/1026, European Commission, Brussels, 2002. http://europa.eu.int/comm/agriculture/mtr/comdoc_en.pdf

20 Stolze, M., A. Piorr, A. Häring and Dabbert,S. (2000) The environmental impact of organic farming. Organic Farming in Europe: Economics and Policy, 6. University of Hohenheim.

21 Network for animal health and welfare in organic agriculture (NAHWOA). EU-funded concerted action. www.veeru.reading.ac.uk/organic

22 Pilot project on organic food quality commissioned by Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection, European Commission, Brussels.

23 Food quality and safety as affected by organic farming. Paper presented to 22nd FAO regional conference for Europe, Porto, July 2000. Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome

24 Offermann, F. and Nieberg, H., 2000. Economic performance of organic farms in Europe, in: Organic farming in Europe: Economics and Policy, Vol. 5. University of Hohenheim

25 Organic agriculture, environment and food security. Environment and Natural Resources, 4. Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome, 2002.

26 Cierpka, T. and Geier, B. A social agenda for organic agriculture. In: Workshop on Organic Agriculture, Washington DC, September 2002. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris.

27 Trading fairly from plough to plate: new models for ethical and sustainable trade in agriculture. Soil Association conference, Cirencester, January 2003.

28 Council Regulation (EC) No 1257/1999 of 17 May 1999 on support for rural development from the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund.. OJ L 160, 26/06/1999, 80-102.

29 Council Regulation (EC) No 1268/1999 of 21 June 1999 on Community support for pre-accession measures in agriculture and rural development in the applicant countries of the central and eastern Europe in the pre-accession period. OJ L161 26/06/1999, 87-93.

30 Organic marketing initiatives and rural development. EU-funded research project no QLK5-2000-01124; University of Wales, Aberystwyth. http://www.irs.aber.ac.uk/omiard.

31 Lampkin, N., C. Foster, S. Padel and P. Midmore (1999) The policy and regulatory environement for organic farming in Europe. Organic Farming in Europe: Economics and Policy, Vol. 1 and 2, University of Hohenheim.

32 Dabbert et al. in: Organic Food and Farming: Towards Partnership and Action in Europe. Proceedings of conference organised by Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Copenhagen, May 2001. www.fvm.dk/kundeupload/konferencer/organic_food_farming/index.htm

33 Workshop on Organic Agriculture, Washington DC, September 2002. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris.

34 An Organic Market to Conquer. Policy Document on Organic Agriculture, 2001-2004. Ministerie van Landbouw, Natuurbeheer en Visserij, Netherlands, 2000. www.minlnv.nl/international

35 An Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming in England. Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, London, 2002. http://www.defra.gov.uk

36 Lampkin, N., C. Foster, S. Padel and P. Midmore (1999) The policy and regulatory environment for organic farming in Europe. Organic Farming in Europe: Economics and Policy, Vol. 1 and 2, University of Hohenheim.

37 Dabbert, S., Haring, A., Zanoli, R. (2003) Organic Agriculture: Policies and Prospects. Zed Books, London.

38 Council Regulation (EEC) No 2078/92 of 30 June 1992 on agricultural production methods compatible with the requirements of the protection of the environment.. OJ L193, 30/07/92, 85-90.

39 Council Regulation (EC) No 1257/1999 of 17 May 1999 on support for rural development from the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund.. OJ L 160, 26/06/1999, 80-102.

40 see, for example, Rech T. (2002) Organic food for public institutions. Paper presented at Workshop on Organic Agriculture, Washington DC, September 2002. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Paris.

41 Znaor, D. (ed.) (1994) The contribution of organic agriculture to sustainable rural development in Central and Eastern Europe. International Seminar, Rudolec, Czech Republic, 1993. Avalon Foundation, Netherlands.

42 Council Regulation (EC) No 1268/1999 of 21 June 1999 on Community support for pre-accession measures in agriculture and rural development in the applicant countries of the central and eastern Europe in the pre-accession period. OJ L161 26/06/1999, 87-93.

43 Znaor, D. (2001) Overview of the development of organic food and farming in the CEE – elements for a regional action plan. In: Organic Food and Farming: Towards Partnership and Action in Europe. Proceedings of conference organised by Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Copenhagen, May 2001.

44 Enlargement and agriculture: successfully integrating the new Member States into the CAP. Issues Paper, Commission of the European Communities, Brussels, January 2002.

45 Organic agriculture, environment and food security. Environment and Natural Resources, 4. Food and Agriculture Organisation, Rome, 2002.

46 Lampkin, N., C. Foster, S. Padel and P. Midmore (1999) The policy and regulatory environment for organic farming in Europe. Organic Farming in Europe: Economics and Policy, Vol. 1 and 2, University of Hohenheim.

47 Actionplan II – Developments in Organic Farming. Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Copenhagen, 1999. www.fvm.dk/oko_uk/high_final_okouk_forside.asp?page_id=217

48 Bundesprogramm Ökologischer Landbau. Bundesministerium für Verbraucher-schutz, Ernährung und Landwirtschaft, Berlin, 2001. http://www.bundesprogramm-oekolandbau.de/

49 An Organic Market to Conquer. Policy Document on Organic Agriculture, 2001-2004. Ministerie van Landbouw, Natuurbeheer en Visserij, Netherlands, 2000. www.minlnv.nl/international

50 Handlingsplan for videre utvikling av økologisk landbruk. Ministry of Agriculture, Oslo, 1995.

51 The Welsh Organic Food Sector Action Plan. NAW/WDA Welsh Agri-Food Partnership, Cardiff, 1999. www.wales.gov.uk/subiagriculture/newdevelop/newdev_e.htm#AGRI-FOOD

52 An Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming in England. Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, London, 2002. http://www.defra.gov.uk

53 Organic Food and Farming: Towards Partnership and Action in Europe. Proceedings of conference organised by Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Copenhagen, May 2001. www.fvm.dk/kundeupload/konferencer/organic_food_farming/index.htm

54 Analysis of the possibility of a European Action plan for organic food and farming. Commission Staff Working Document, December 2002. Commission of the European Communities, Brussels.

55 A sustainable agricultural policy for Europe: a position paper on CAP review and reform. International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements EU Group, April 2002.

56 Overall growth rates in Europe have averaged 20-25% per year, with a few exceptions, since the 1980s. Projecting this forwards suggests that 10-20% of European agriculture could be managed organically by 2015, and is consistent with the targets set by many individual countries. This level of growth has significant implications for the provision of training, advice and other information to farmers, as well as for the development of inspection and certification procedures. It also has major implications for the development of the market for organic food, as it progresses from niche to mainstream status, with a possible retail sales value €20-30 billion.

57 Organic Food and Farming: Towards Partnership and Action in Europe. Proceedings of conference organised by Danish Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, Copenhagen, May 2001. www.fvm.dk/kundeupload/konferencer/organic_food_farming/index.htm

58 Analysis of the possibility of a European Action plan for organic food and farming. Commission Staff Working Document, December 2002. Commission of the European Communities, Brussels.

59 Lampkin, N., C. Foster, S. Padel and P. Midmore (1999) The policy and regulatory environment for organic farming in Europe. Organic Farming in Europe: Economics and Policy, Vols. 1 and 2, University of Hohenheim.

60 Dabbert, S., Haring, A., Zanoli, R. (2003) Organic Agriculture: Policies and Prospects. Zed Books, London.