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EU rules on producing and labelling organic products (from 2022)

 

SUMMARY OF:

Regulation (EU) 2018/848 — rules on organic production and labelling of organic products

WHAT IS THE AIM OF THE REGULATION?

It aims to revise and strengthen the European Union’s (EU) rules concerning organic production and the labelling of organic products in relation to:

  • the control system
  • the trade regime
  • production rules.

In this way, it seeks to:

  • create a level playing field for operators;
  • harmonise and simplify rules;
  • improve consumer confidence in organic products and in the EU’s organic logo.

KEY POINTS

  • The regulation broadens the scope of the existing legislation on the production and labelling of organic products (Regulation (EC) No 834/2007) to cover products closely linked to agriculture such as cork, salt, essential oils, cotton or wool.
  • It harmonises the rules applicable to organic operators in the EU Member States and non-EU countries through the introduction of the compliance system.
  • It simplifies access to the scheme for small operators.
  • It reviews the livestock organic production rules and introduces rules for new species such as rabbits.

Principles

Organic production should:

  • respect natural systems and cycles and maintain and improve the state of soil, water and air, plant and animal health, and the balance among them;
  • preserve the elements of natural landscapes;
  • use energy and natural resources responsibly;
  • produce a wide variety of high-quality products to meet consumer demand;
  • ensure the integrity of organic production at all stages of the production, processing and distribution processes of food and animal feed;
  • exclude the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)* and products produced from or by GMOs*, other than veterinary drugs;
  • restrict the use of external inputs;
  • design and manage biological processes using methods based on risk assessment and the use of precautionary and preventive measures;
  • exclude animal cloning;
  • ensure a high level of animal welfare.

Requirements

Among other things, organic farming must:

  • maintain and enhance soil life and its natural fertility, stability, water retention capacity and biodiversity;
  • use seeds and animals with a high degree of genetic diversity, disease resistance and longevity;
  • choose plant varieties — taking into account the characteristics of specific organic production systems — focusing on agronomic performance and disease resistance;
  • choose animal breeds to take into account their genetic value, longevity, vitality and resistance to diseases or health problems;
  • practise site-adapted and land-related breeding.

Production

To avoid adverse effects on the environment and on animal and plant health, producers must:

  • take preventive measures at each stage of production, preparation and distribution to
    • preserve biodiversity and soil quality
    • prevent the occurrence of pests and diseases
    • control these pests and diseases;
  • take proportionate and precautionary measures to avoid contamination with products or substances not authorised for use in organic production.

Conversion period

  • When a farm wishes to produce organic products, it must go through a conversion period during which it must be managed according to organic production rules, although its products at this stage are not considered to be organic. It can only place its products on the market as organic products once this conversion period has elapsed and has been checked.
  • Following the conversion period, any EU-based farm wishing to move to organic production must be managed fully in line with organic production requirements.
  • The regulation also allows parallel farms (i.e. non-organic, in-conversion and organic), provided that these activities are clearly and genuinely separated.

Certification

  • Operators (i.e. producers, processors and distributors) must notify the competent authorities of their activities to become officially certified that they comply with the organic production and labelling rules.
  • The regulation introduces a new system of group certification* for small farmers, making it easier for them to switch to organic farming.

Official controls and labelling

  • The control system is strengthened by means of stricter precautionary measures and more robust risk-based controls of the supply chain. In principle, there are on-the-spot checks on operators once a year. However, where previous controls have not revealed any instance of non-compliance over the previous 3 years, the period between physical on-the-spot inspections may be extended to up to 2 years.
  • If a control body suspects an operator of trying to place a non-authorised product on the market as ‘organic’, it must formally investigate and temporarily ban the placing on the market of that product pending the investigation’s outcome. In the event of serious or repeated infringements, operators may be prohibited from selling products described as organic for a given period or may have their certificate withdrawn.
  • Specific controls on organic farming will be complemented by the EU’s general rules on official controls along the agri-food chain.

Imports

A product may be imported from a non-EU country to be sold in the EU as an organic product if certain conditions are met. It must:

  • comply with production and control rules of the non-EU country that are recognised under an international agreement as equivalent to those in the EU;
  • have a certificate issued by the relevant control authorities or control bodies in non-EU countries confirming that the product complies with EU standards.

Implementing acts

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/464 lays down certain rules for applying Regulation (EU) 2018/848 as regards:

  • the documents needed for the retroactive recognition of periods for the purpose of conversion;
  • the production of organic products;
  • the information Member States need to provide to the European Commission.

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2021/279 lays down rules for:

  • official investigations in cases of suspicion of non-compliance;
  • the size of operator groups and the documentation of their system of internal controls;
  • minimum control requirements;
  • the national catalogue of measures in cases of non-compliance;
  • the exchange of information between the Member States and the Commission.

Delegated acts

The Commission has adopted several delegated acts amending the annexes to Regulation (EU) 2018/848.

  • Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/427 amends Annex II to Regulation (EU) 2018/848 as regards certain detailed production rules for organic products. This was amended in turn by Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/269.
  • Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/1794 amends Part I of Annex II to Regulation (EU) 2018/848 as regards the use of in-conversion and non-organic plant reproductive material.
  • Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/642 amends Annex III to Regulation (EU) 2018/848 as regards certain information to be provided on the labelling of organic products.
  • Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/715 amends Regulation (EU) 2018/848 as regards the requirements for groups of operators.
  • Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/716 amends Annex II to Regulation (EU) 2018/848 as regards organic production rules on sprouted seeds and chicory heads, on feed for certain aquaculture animals and on aquaculture parasite treatments.

In addition, two delegated regulations supplement the rules in Regulation (EU) 2018/848.

  • Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/2146 supplements Regulation (EU) 2018/848 as regards exceptional production rules in organic production.
  • Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/771 supplements Regulation (EU) 2018/848 by laying down specific criteria and conditions for the checks of documentary accounts in the framework of official controls in organic production and the official controls of groups of operators.

Repeal

Regulation (EU) 2018/848 repeals and replaces Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 (see summary) as of 1 January 2022.

FROM WHEN DOES THE REGULATION APPLY?

It applies from 1 January 2022 (its application date having been postponed by 1 year by Regulation (EU) 2020/1693 in view of the COVID-19 pandemic and the related public health crisis).

BACKGROUND

For more information, see:

KEY TERMS

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs): plants or animals bred by modifying their cellular and genetic make-up, in order to, for example, have a higher yield or resist disease.
Products produced from or by GMOs: (a) products produced from GMOs that are derived in whole or in part from GMOs, but do not themselves contain or consist of GMOs (e.g. potatoes produced from GMO seed potatoes); (b) products produced by GMOs that are derived using a GMO as the last living organism in the production process, but do not themselves contain or consist of GMOs, nor are they produced from GMOs (e.g. sugar and starch manufactured from a GMO vegetable source).
Certification: a certification system which identifies the producers who comply with the rules governing organic production and the labelling of organic products. Because small farmers individually face relatively high inspection costs and administrative burdens linked to organic certification, a system of group certification is introduced and defined, reflecting the needs and resource capacity of these farmers.

MAIN DOCUMENT

Regulation (EU) 2018/848 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2018 on organic production and labelling of organic products and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 (OJ L 150, 14.6.2018, pp. 1-92)

Successive amendments to Regulation (EU) 2018/848 have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

RELATED DOCUMENTS

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/771 of 21 January 2021 supplementing Regulation (EU) 2018/848 of the European Parliament and of the Council by laying down specific criteria and conditions for the checks of documentary accounts in the framework of official controls in organic production and the official controls of groups of operators (OJ L 165, 11.5.2021, pp. 25-27)

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/715 of 20 January 2021 amending Regulation (EU) 2018/848 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the requirements for groups of operators (OJ L 151, 3.5.2021, pp. 1-4)

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/716 of 9 February 2021 amending Annex II to Regulation (EU) 2018/848 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards organic production rules on sprouted seeds and chicory heads, on feed for certain aquaculture animals and on aquaculture parasite treatments (OJ L 151, 3.5.2021, pp. 5-7)

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2021/642 of 30 October 2020 amending Annex III to Regulation (EU) 2018/848 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards certain information to be provided on the labelling of organic products (OJ L 133, 20.4.2021, pp. 1-4)

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/2146 of 24 September 2020 supplementing Regulation (EU) 2018/848 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards exceptional production rules in organic production (OJ L 428, 18.12.2020, pp. 5-8)

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/1794 of 16 September 2020 amending Part I of Annex II to Regulation (EU) 2018/848 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the use of in-conversion and non-organic plant reproductive material (OJ L 402, 1.12.2020, pp. 23-26)

See consolidated version.

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/464 of 26 March 2020 laying down certain rules for the application of Regulation (EU) 2018/848 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the documents needed for the retroactive recognition of periods for the purpose of conversion, the production of organic products and information to be provided by Member States (OJ L 98, 31.3.2020, pp. 2-25)

See consolidated version.

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/427 of 13 January 2020 amending Annex II to Regulation (EU) 2018/848 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards certain detailed production rules for organic products (OJ L 87, 23.3.2020, pp. 1-3)

See consolidated version.

Regulation (EU) 2017/625 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2017 on official controls and other official activities performed to ensure the application of food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and plant protection products, amending Regulations (EC) No 999/2001, (EC) No 396/2005, (EC) No 1069/2009, (EC) No 1107/2009, (EU) No 1151/2012, (EU) No 652/2014, (EU) 2016/429 and (EU) 2016/2031 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Council Regulations (EC) No 1/2005 and (EC) No 1099/2009 and Council Directives 98/58/EC, 1999/74/EC, 2007/43/EC, 2008/119/EC and 2008/120/EC, and repealing Regulations (EC) No 854/2004 and (EC) No 882/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council, Council Directives 89/608/EEC, 89/662/EEC, 90/425/EEC, 91/496/EEC, 96/23/EC, 96/93/EC and 97/78/EC and Council Decision 92/438/EEC (Official Controls Regulation) (OJ L 95, 7.4.2017, pp. 1-142)

See consolidated version.

Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 of 28 June 2007 on organic production and labelling of organic products and repealing Regulation (EEC) No 2092/91 (OJ L 189, 20.7.2007, pp. 1-23)

See consolidated version.

last update 29.06.2021

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