Organic on every table
When we say we want ‘Organic on every table’, it means we want high-quality food to be more widely available. To achieve this, it is crucial to increase production and raise consumers and policy-makers’ awareness of organic’s economic, environmental, and social benefits.
To get organic on every table, we advocated with policy-makers, as they can put incentives and coherent policies in place supporting the ecological and social services farmers provide. We also worked with a vast network of food and farming actors, civil society, companies, and NGOs.
Much of our work builds on the work we have been doing in the past and we will continue working on in the future. This way we guarantee a consistent representation of organic at the European level.
Organic’s environmental benefits
Restoring and protecting agricultural biodiversity: seeds in the new Organic Regulation
Ensuring that seeds, the source of plant production, are fit for organic is one of our priority areas. This is why the LIVESEED project is such an important project for the organic sector. Coordinated by IFOAM EU, it stimulates organic plant breeding and the production and use of organic seeds all over Europe and thereby helps organic production systems to reach their full potential. Within the project, we developed a booklet “State of Organic Seed in Europe”, which is the first attempt ever made to explore the actual situation of organic seed use in Europe. It answers a variety of question, such as how much non-organic seed or planting material is used in organic farming in the EU, what factors encourage or discourage farmers to use organic seed, how can organic plant breeding contribute to 100% organic seed use, how has the organic seed market developed over the last years, and what factors hamper the further development of the organic seed sector from the seed supplier’s perspective.
Another key booklet “How to implement the Organic Regulation to increase production & use of organic seed” features practical examples and policy recommendations. The examples from various EU countries illustrate how the new EU Organic Regulation as well as other measures and initiatives are contributing to an increase of the production and use of organic seed. We organised several national/regional workshops in Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Spain and the Baltic countries that fostered exchange between national authorities, seed companies, seed database managers, certifiers and farmers and offered a unique opportunity for peer-to-peer knowledge exchange and joint development of action plans. Additionally, we organised two sessions at BIOFACH on “Organic plant breeding in a system-based approach” and “Seed in the new Organic Regulation 2018/848” that targeted a broader audience, including farmers and processors.
In parallel, we advocated for the inclusion of the concept of plant reproductive material in the new EU Organic Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2018/848). Following the adoption of the basic act, the European Commission started working on the adoption of the delegated and implemented acts, which will detail the regulation. Our position paper on plant reproductive material highlights those areas that required particular attention after the publication of the basic act. To underline our demands, we sent a Common Letter to the European Commission on the Organic Regulation 2018/848 and the upcoming Delegated Act on ‘Organic Heterogeneous Materials’, co-signed by other NGOs and civil society organisations. The new Organic Regulation is a step forward for organic farmers to access more and diversified seeds and other plant reproductive materials. However, a lot depends on how it will be implemented.
Patents on seeds are a threat to the biodiversity on the field and hinder the development of new varieties as they limit the access to genetic material that is essential for innovation in breeding. We advocated, in line with the position of the European institutions, to ensure that patents are no longer granted on seeds and genetic traits that can be found in nature or obtained through conventional breeding.
Ensuring a GMO-free European food and farming sector
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) promote uniformity on the field and pose risks to the environment, human and animal health. In addition, they interfere with farmers’ rights for seed and farmers’ independence. Hence, it is crucial for the organic sector that GMOs continue to be regulated to enable a GMO-free production of food and feed in Europe. In 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decided that new genetic engineering techniques are GMOs and should be regulated as such. The European organic movement welcomed this decision as it maintains a proper risk assessment as well as traceability and labelling requirements. Following discussions on reopening the GMO legislation, we called to ensure the maintenance and correct implementation of the GMO legislation. If new genetic engineering techniques would be out of the scope of the EU legislation on GMOs, it would lead to the release of genetically modified organisms into the environment and the food chain without prior risk assessment, authorization and the possibility to trace GMOs in food, feed and the environment. Such a situation would make it almost impossible for organic and conventional GMO-free farmers to exclude contamination during their production process and to live up to the expectations of consumers.
To help the organic and GMO-free conventional sectors remain GMO free, we sent an open letter to the Spitzenkandidaten of the new European Commission. Together with other NGOs and civil society organisations, we asked not to torpedo the EU GMO legislation and to ensure the correct implementation of the Court’s ruling across all Member States. During a meeting with the Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE) we discussed the implementation of the GMO legislation by the European Commission and Member States as well as the development of detection methods and strategies for all GMOs.
We also successfully advocated to object the authorisation of new herbicide tolerant GMOs in the EU Parliament and held a roundtable on the ‘boundaries of plant breeding’ within the ‘Keeping GMOs out of organic’ project.
Finally, we organised a BIOFACH session on “GMOs, how to avoid contaminations? Practical solutions for food and feed processors and farmers” with Bund Ökologische Lebensmittelwirtschaft (BÖLW), the Fédération Nationale d’Agriculture Biologique (FNAB) and the Organic Research Centre (ORC).
Ensuring an appropriate political framework for organic farming: the CAP post-2020
In 2018, we published the report “Towards a new public goods payment model for remunerating farmers under the new CAP Post-2020” with the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL). In the report we urged the European Commission to transform the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to incentivize farmers to deliver more environmental and social services.
In 2019, we developed a new report on Eco-schemes together with FiBL and the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), as well as a practical guide for managing authorities to design the green architecture of their CAP Strategic Plans for 2021-2027.
These publications examine the newly-introduced Eco-scheme, assess the opportunities and risks of the new intervention, and identify how to ensure its full potential. They provide recommendations on using the CAP’s green architecture to the fullest to mainstream sustainability in farming, using the Commission’s CAP proposal of June 2018 as basis, and drawing on the experiences of past reforms of the policy. Furthermore, several examples of potential eligible practices (high-nature farming, organic farming, agroforestry) are provided in the guide.
During a workshop with IFOAM EU’s Interest Group of Organic Farmers (IGOF), we discussed the possible design of the new Eco-Schemes in the CAP proposal post-2020, the secondary legislation of the new Organic Regulation, and the opportunities and risks of emerging technologies and digitalisation for organic farmers.
We organised a high-level political event with representatives of the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture, the Finnish Environmental Ministry as well as Finnish organic farming associations. Policy-makers covered key topics like the CAP post-2020, GMOs and regenerative carbon farming and will discuss them with the international audience.
We also organised a session on “A new CAP for healthy farms, people and a healthy planet” with BIOFACH. Among others, participants discussed how the future CAP can reward the full-scale transition towards sustainable farming systems respecting nature, the environment, and our health. During this session, we repeated IFOAM EU’s priorities, including an ambitious ringfencing of 70% of the CAP budget for environmental and climate action.
Finally, we took part in the Good Food Good Farming campaign, a platform of national and EU-wide civil society organisations advocating for a fairer CAP and better allocation of the EU budget for sustainable farming. A highlight of this campaign were the European Action Days in Strasbourg, where our Policy Officer on the CAP, our volunteers and more than 1,000 others called for better support for organic farming through both pillars of the CAP.
Organic inputs: fertiliser, plant protection products and more
The availability of suitable inputs for organic farming is crucial. To ensure plant protection products (PPPs), fertilisers and food and feed additives are in line with organic’s high standards we advocated for the availability of inputs adapted to organic production systems and against those threatening organic farming systems.
We advocated on and welcomed the agreement on a new Fertilising Product Regulation (FPR), which was reached after almost two years of negotiations. Around half of the fertilisers on the EU market are not covered by the existing legislation. The revised text, which will replace Regulation 2003/2003 from 2022 onwards, will include mineral fertilisers, organic and waste-based fertilisers as well as bio stimulants.
Furthermore, we followed and kept an eye on the pesticide legislation’s implementation and launched the call to join our first ‘Developing Organics’ project on pesticide use and contamination. One of the funders of this new project is Ekhaga foundation. We also organised and attended events such as a BIOFACH session on “Natural inputs in organic farming, availability and perspectives” and the European Conference on Copper in Plant Protection.
We created a new IFOAM EU expert group on Plant Protection Products and Fertilisers and signed a cooperation agreement with IBMA to strengthen our advocacy work to achieve more adequate authorisation processes for natural substances.
IFOAM EU also manages the RELACS project’s ‘science-practice-policy dialogue’ and ‘communication, dissemination and facilitation’. FiBL coordinates the project that started in May 2018 and that will develop alternatives for inputs considered contentious in organic agriculture. In 2019, the project published a policy brief explaining the organic approach to inputs as well as a practice abstracts on the reduction of antibiotics through peer-to-peer learning.
Building bridges, increasing capacity and being involved
Putting organic higher on the political agenda: Civil Dialogue Groups
To put organic on every table we connect organic practitioners with farming stakeholders, civil society organisations and policy-makers through participation in Civil Dialogue Groups (CDGs). CDGs connect the European Commission and stakeholders’ organisations at the EU level. Besides exchange with other organisations, these meetings provide us with an important opportunity to put organic higher on the Commission’s agenda, influence legislative processes and steer the implementation of agricultural policies.
In 2019, IFOAM EU President of the Board Jan Plagge was re-elected as Chair of the Civil Dialogue Group on the CAP and Vice-President of the Board Marian Blom was elected as Chair of the Civil Dialogue Group on Organic Farming.
With the highly valued help of our members, we participated in several CDGs, each focusing on a different topic. We are proud to say that our President Jan Plagge was re-elected as Chair of the Civil Dialogue Group on the Common Agricultural Policy. He will continue his work to “get a new Common Agricultural Policy that delivers more for public goods” and make “organic farming and important bridge for transforming food and farming systems”. IFOAM EU Vice-President Marian Blom was elected as Chair of the Civil Dialogue Group on Organic Farming. During her time as a chair, she will “facilitate the dialogue between the stakeholders” and “implement a bottom-up and inclusive process” during “the development of a new European Organic Action Plan”.
Exchanging with the organic movement and like-minded organisations
In 2019, we built bridges via face-to-face meetings, position papers, press releases, official letters, targeted emails, our newsletter, and the IFOAM EU member extranet. We also exchanged regularly – in person and digitally – with the IFOAM EU Board, Council, Interest Group of Organic Processors and Traders (IGOP), the Interest Group of Organic Farmers (IGOF), the Interest Group of Organic Retailers (IGOR), the Interest Group on Organic Certification and Integrity (IGOC) the European Organic Comms Hub and nine more working groups. Of course, we constantly informed our member organisations about recent developments relevant to the organic sector in Europe.
Last but not least, we supported the European Citizen Initiative “Save bees and farmers”, which wants to phase out synthetic pesticides by 2035, support farmers, and save bees and nature.
Building bridges beyond the ‘usual suspects’
In 2019, we successfully wrapped up the four-year SME Organics project, within which we developed organic action plans at various face-to-face meetings with the project partners and relevant stakeholders.
Our engagement in several other projects allowed us to create links with stakeholders relevant to the organic movement, such as EURAKNOS, IoF2020, SmartAgriHubs, ReMIX and XF-Actors.
One of our team members graduated from the Organic Leadership Course and we also continued to collect and show initiatives bringing organic on every table on euorganic2030.bio (#EUOrganic2030, #OrganicOnEveryTable).
Improve – Inspire – Deliver
The second pillar of our roadmap is ‘Improve – Inspire – Deliver’. The entire organic supply chain has always been a driver of innovation – showing the movement’s potential to drive change in harmony with ecosystems and those inhabiting them.
Organic’s contribution to combatting the climate crisis
During the 25th Conference of Parties (COP 25) of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Madrid, we advocated on how agroecology and organic contribute to reducing emissions together with IFOAM – Organics International. The organic movement also organised a side-event titled “Transforming Our Food System to Support Natural Carbon Sinks” and participated in Koronivia’s Joint Work on Agriculture. During one of the workstream’s six workshops, Francisco Cornejo Soms, a long-established Chilean organic farmer spoke on our behalf and shared his experiences as a guardian of soil fertility and soil health standing up for millions of farmers rights.
IFOAM EU also continued to disseminate the results of the IDDRI study it contributed to, called “Agroecology and carbon neutrality in Europe by 2050: what are the issues?”. The study evaluates the potential of organic farming to reduce emissions, contribute to soil carbon sequestration and to protect biodiversity by 2050 when associated with changes in diets and production. The results were used to start discussions with the Directorate-General for Climate Action (DG CLIMA) on the concept of “carbon farming”. IFOAM EU also made proposals in the CDG on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) on how the new CAP could incentivise action for increased soil carbon sequestration.
Ensuring research & innovation funding for organic and agroecology
Our work with TP Organics, the European Technology Platform for organic food and farming, ensured increased funding for organic research. The platform unites more than 100 companies, farmers, consumers, civil society organisations and researchers active in the organic value chain from production, input and supply, to food processing, marketing and consumption in Europe. In 2019, TP Organics focused its activities on Horizon Europe, the EU Research and Innovation programme for the budget period 2021-2027.
Due to these joined efforts, the legal texts of Horizon Europe state that the programme should support Research & Innovation for organic farming and agroecology.
Moreover, IFOAM EU participated in TP Organics’ successful 5th Organic Innovation Days organised with the LIAISON and XF-ACTORS projects, and support of Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing. The event featured the launch of TP Organics’ ‘Briefing on Horizon Europe’ and the new ‘Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda’, highlighting the priority research areas of the organic sector for Horizon Europe.
Demonstrating organic solutions for our food and farming system
To show how organic food and farming can provide solutions to the challenges our food system faces, we launched the new Organic Farm Knowledge platform, in collaboration with other organic organisations in Europe.
The platform provides access to a wide range of tools and resources helping improve organic production. Tools on the platform include factsheets, guides, online calculation tools and videos. They cover themes such as soil quality and fertility, nutrient management, pest and disease control, animal husbandry, ration planning, organic seed and plant breeding.
More themes will follow soon, such fruit production and inputs used in organic plant protection. It also serves as a virtual meeting place for cross-border learning among farmers and farm advisers. OK-Net EcoFeed is further developing the platform originally set up by the OK-Net Arable project. OK-Net EcoFeed aims at helping organic pig and poultry farmers in achieving the goal of 100% use of organic and regional feed.
Furthermore, we were part of the BIOFRUITNET project, which kicked off in December 2019. Focusing on organic pome, stone and citrus fruits, this projects aims to strengthen the competitiveness of European organic fruit production by collecting and synthesizing existing practical and scientific knowledge on organic fruit-growing to distribute it widely among the EU countries through easy formats like e-learning, podcasts, videos and short articles; and strengthening the established networks in organic fruit growing and establish links between them to create strong networks of organic fruit producers and stakeholders with a good flow of information. The project is coordinated by Naturland and carried out in collaboration with 15 partner organisations. IFOAM EU is leading the work on knowledge transfer and dissemination.
We participated in the ReMIX project that looks into redesigning European cropping systems based on species mixtures. We also started activities in SmartAgriHubs, a project that wants to realise the digitisation of European agriculture.
Last but not least, we continued our involvement in the NEFERTITI project, focusing knowledge exchange methodologies to boost the uptake of innovation and improve peer-to-peer learning. Our participation in FutureEUAqua, a project aiming at the effective promotion of sustainable growth of environmentally friendly organic and conventional aquaculture was still ongoing.
As in previous years, we gave young professionals from all over Europe the opportunity to learn about the organic movement within IFOAM EU. Volunteers worked with us for one year within the framework of the European Solidarity Crops and increased their knowledge about organic farming.
Of course, we continued collecting initiatives improving organic food and farming in Europe. Get acquainted with them on euorganic2030.bio (#EUOrganic2030, #ImproveInspireDeliver).
Inspiring the new Organic Regulation
Our work on the new Organic Regulation focused on the development of delegated and implementing acts through direct meetings with the European Commission and regular communication towards the Member States. To prepare the political and technical input to this process, we closely collaborated with our task force on the Organic Regulation. Furthermore, we were in constant contact with our members and informed them about the development of the legislative process of the new Organic Regulation. We presented our work and the possible impacts of the new Organic Regulation at many occasions via presentations, newsletters, briefings, webinars and a dedicated session during the European Organic Congress 2019 in Bucharest.
Fair play – Fair pay
The roadmap’s third pillar to achieve our vision 2030 is ‘Fair play – Fair pay’. Today is a good time to be organic, since the market has never been bigger and seen a more rapid growth. As the organic sector went beyond a niche market, supply chain actors must play their part setting up fairer and more transparent food systems. For this we need to involve all actors along the value chain. From farmers to processors and consumers to certifiers, power and value should be fairly distributed and the costs and benefits of food production products should be accounted for.
Advocating for a common food policy
Based on preparatory work we did in 2018, as well as on the IPES-Food report “Towards a common food policy in the EU” we advocated for a transition to sustainable food systems, which will “ensure the ecological transition necessary to tackle climate change impacts, water scarcity, soil degradation, biodiversity collapse, fish stock depletion, animal welfare, chemical pollution, and food waste and loss”. To achieve this transition, we urgently need an integrated common food policy and new governance system. We put these demands forward in a letter to the European Commission’s Spitzenkandidaten and new Commission President von der Leyen with more than 30 other associations. At the same time, we asked to appoint a European Commission Vice-President responsible for ensuring our food systems’ sustainability. Such a Vice-President should have a mandate to coordinate the Commission’s Directorates’ efforts impacting our food system. These include the Directorates General (DGs) AGRI, CLIMA, COMP, EMPL, ENERGY, ENVI, GROW, MARE, SANTE, TRADE, and TRANSPORT*. To join forces regarding these demands, IFOAM EU started cooperating with the informal EU food policy coalition composed of more than 60 participants, including NGOs, researchers and think tanks. As a result, Frans Timmermans was appointed Executive Vice President of the European Commission for the European Green Deal, which marks a success for IFOAM EU’s advocacy activities. Frans Timmermans will be responsible for leading the Commission’s work on the Green Deal, its roadmap for making the EU carbon neutral by 2050.
Our position paper on agroecology highlights why we need to transform food and farming systems, the relationship between organic and agroecology, and their contribution to more sustainable farming systems.
Organic is the only certified form of agroecology and applying these practices widely will significantly contribute to transforming food and farming to a system that benefits our ecosystems and those inhabiting them.
IFOAM EU also monitored a new initiative of the European Commission to develop the Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) approach for food products, which seems to be on hold from the Commission’s side. Finally, we followed the debate around the EU ecolabel’s potential extension to food products and beverages.
Improving the organic supply chain
Our work also focused on increasing the organic supply chain’s credibility, fairness and transparency. In April 2019, the Unfair Trading Practices legislation became Directive (EU) 2019/633 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 on unfair trading practices in business-to-business relationships in the agricultural and food supply chain. By May 2021, it will be transposed into national legislation. As it is a Directive there is a room for manoeuvre on its transposition and implementation nationally. To protect the interests of the supply chains’ more vulnerable actors it is important that Member States implement this Directive in the fairest way possible. This is why IFOAM EU and other associations have developed a transposition guide, which will provide you with the tools to transpose the Directive transposes well to national level. IFOAM EU is still involved in gathering information as to how the transposition process is going.
The transposition guide helps actors in each Member State to implement the Unfair Trading Practices Directive in a way that maximises the protection of vulnerable actors in the supply chain.
To further ensure fairness in the supply chain, we sent several open letters on the Directive on Unfair Trading Practices (UTPs), demanding to implement ‘Fair play & fair pay’ in the food supply chain. This, as well as our publication on ‘Taxation as a tool towards true cost accounting‘, launched during the Best Economy Forum, were major steps to a fairer and more transparent food and farming system. This study looked at which taxation system would be more effective in promoting organic products and found that “indirect taxes on plant protection products tend to have a higher chance of being implemented and thus having the intended impact compared to indirect taxes on food”.
Building bridges with organic processors and companies
In December 2019, we organised ‘IFOAM EU Meets Business – Bringing the organic food industry together’. This event gathered the organic food industry in an interactive setting and provided a platform to the IFOAM EU Interest Group of Organic Processors (IGOP) and food companies to discuss topics relevant to organic. Participants shared information and exchanged on best practices to better understand each other’s perspectives and touch base on shared technical issues.
Moreover, the Interest Group of Processors (IGOP) met three times and had their annual meeting. The technical IGOP is composed of associations of processors and traders, so the IGOP annual general meeting is an opportunity for companies, members of IFOAM EU or members of members of IFOAM EU, to have their say about IGOP’s and IFOAM EU’s future work.
We are happy to say that we involved food and farming actors and policy-makers at regional, national and European level to great success. We did this through our advocacy work, direct meetings with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), like-minded NGOs our members, participation in relevant workshops and events and constant communication.
Of course we continued to collect initiatives that improve fairness and transparency in European organic food and farming on euorganic2030.bio. Find these initiatives on social media with #EUorganic2030 and #FairPlayFairPay.