Conference organised by AFI, the Anti-Fraud Initiative, Brussels, 9 February 2023.
AFI, the Anti-Fraud Initiative, organised a multi-stakeholder meeting of representatives of the organic trade, control bodies, laboratories, research, experts, sector organisations, members from the European Parliament, the Committee on Organic Production and the EU Commission to discuss the difficulties the organic sector is facing with the implementation of articles 28 and 29 of the Regulation (EU) 2018/848.
While residue testing for detecting the use of unauthorised substances was the starting point, the discussion was overshadowed by regular findings of traces of contaminations that are not due to the use of unauthorised substances but still lead to suspicions, blocking of trade, official investigations, high costs – and frustrations among operators. All of this distracts from addressing the real problems with organic integrity.
Since 2021, the Rescue network (Residues and contaminants: understanding and enabling appropriate action), an informal network moderated by AFI (Jochen Neuendorff and Tom Nizet), consisting of experts from FIBL, BLQ, EOCC, OPTA Europe, AÖL, Synabio, BioNederland, BioSuisse and IFOAM-OE, has been exchanging information on analysing the problem, on interpretation of the regulation, on solutions, guidance documents, how to achieve effective and efficient implementation, and achieve harmonisation. The conference was a much-needed exchange of views and experiences; an important step in that process.
Commission representative, Henri Delanghe, stated that the expansion of the European organic market should be consumer-demand driven. In one presentation, it was explained that consumers, including organic consumers, do not know very much about how their food is produced and even less about how it is controlled. They often doubt the organic guarantee, and whether they get value for their money. There is little explanation of what organic production means, and what the logo stands for. It was concluded that the sector has a communication problem. There is little investment, by the public or the private sectors, to explain what organic is and what it is not.
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